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FBI Raids Homes and Seizes Bandwidth Pirates' PCs 815

Saturated Subnet writes "Recently in Toledo, OH FBI agents and a local police task force raided 13 residence and seized 23 computers. Some users of the local cable broadband provider had uncapped their cable modems." It appears to be a smaller ISP, and the article says these 23 people cost them a quarter of a million bucks. Who has time to look at $10,800 worth of pr0n?
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FBI Raids Homes and Seizes Bandwidth Pirates' PCs

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  • Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HowlinMad ( 220943 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:52AM (#3778576) Homepage Journal
    "It's against the law. It's a crime we are going to enforce," the detective said.

    ANd the article says that no arrests were made..... sounds like some enforcing to me.
  • Pr0n (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Dilbert_ ( 17488 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:53AM (#3778590) Homepage
    I'm sure they did more than just download pr0n, there's only so much of that stuff you can enjoy before needing a 'break'... Bet they were running pr0n sites of their own or something. Why else get the cops involved?
  • by Slashamatic ( 553801 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:55AM (#3778598)
    The thingy that was untapped was the broadband modem .NOT. the computer. Given the way some of these things are reprogrammed, the user's computer's may have had nothing to do with it as the modems are remotely configurable.

    I guess the FBI needs to look for scripts or something, because without that, nobody can prove that the end-user did it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:59AM (#3778630)
    Alot of us were privy to the methods of uncapping cable modems many moons ago. Some of us did. It was nice to be pulling upload speeds of 1 Mb/s (as opposed to 128 Kb/s)...

    Everything was fine and dandy until we received email addressed to the account owners basically stating "We know what you are doing. You've broken the terms of service by uncapping your modem. We are going to cap it again. If you abuse our network one more time we will ban your modem's mac address."

    Wow! We played the game and lost. We got busted. But... I mean.. shit... I didn't see any mention of legal involvement in letters from our cable provider. They didn't steal our hardware as punishment (which apparently was well withing their means). We learned our lesson and our modems will remain capped.

    my .02
  • by toupsie ( 88295 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @09:59AM (#3778641) Homepage
    While I don't think you should not go around modifying equipment that is under a user agreement signed by the user and the equipment provider in order to steal services but sending in the FBI is a bit much. I thought there was more important things to deal with besides obese men with a pr0n addiction using a modified cable modem. You know...that whole "War on Terra" thingy.

    I almost want to sue the cable company for wasting the time of the FBI. Next time, cut off their service (A pair of wire cutters will do just fine) and take the losers to court and sue them. I couldn't believe the FBI showed up and didn't arrest anyone! Just took the guys computers.

    The only real question is did any of their "non-stealing" customers notice that their net connections were slower because of these "bandwidth theives"?

  • Drumming up charges (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:02AM (#3778664)
    If the $250k that the ISP says they lost was so important, why didn't they just cancel the users' accounts and charge them for a week's usage or whatever?

    Oh.. because that wouldn't be news.

    The ISP(s?) wanted to make an example (or several examples) of these users.

    After *ahem* "backing-up" all the pr0n and w4r3z off these stole^H^H^H^H^Hconfiscated computers, the local police and FBI will use this incident to drum up more support for more arcane laws to restrict the rights of American citizens.

    Since 9/11, has *everyone* lost the backbone to fight for personal freedoms and civil liberties?
  • I wonder (Score:2, Interesting)

    by beleg777 ( 551987 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:17AM (#3778807)
    Perhaps they siezed the computers because they believed somthing bigger was going on? Perhaps they were hoping to catch some hacking or warez distrubution? I don't know, it just seems unnecesary, all they needed to do was grab the modems to prove they were modified and get the use logs from the ISP to prove breach of contract and see how much bandwidth was illegally used. Either that or I've been hanging around here with the conspiricy theorists too long.
  • by ( 557454 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:19AM (#3778830) Homepage
    Call me crazy, but I have to beleive that there was somthing going on here that we don't know about. I'm not talking about anything sinister on the FBI's part, I just think that they had a more important reason to investigate that they arn't saying to the public, and this violation was a good excuse to infiltrate. Imagine if the Feds suspected one of those 23 people of a more serious crime like writing viruses, child porn, financial idenity fraud, etc. They have been watching them for some time, and still don't have enough evidence to get a warrent to search the house, but they say to themselfs "if we could take a peek at thier computer". They decide to check with the ISP and see who in the neiborhood was violating the law, and one thing leads to the other. Suddenly they have access to the computer they were looking for, and they didn't alert anyone else involved in the REAL crime that they were aware of what was going on. This sounds much more plausable to me.
  • by JohnDenver ( 246743 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:30AM (#3778911) Homepage
    Point A:

    Shoplifting *IS* a crime, which will land you in CRIMINAL COURT.

    Breaking a TOS is a Breach of Contract, which will land you in CIVIL court.

    Point B: (Any reason this wouldn't work?)

    If a cable company's user breaks thier terms of service, it's very easy to disconnect thier service and bar them from causing futher loss. Recovering losses is as easy as small claims court.

    Of course it won't work for a grocery store as they have few reliable options to prevent people from coming back into thier store to steal.(That's if you're not arresting them)

    So, yes it wouldn't work very well with the grocery store, but it would plently fine with the ISP.

  • by Larry_Dillon ( 20347 ) <dillon,larry&gmail,com> on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:53AM (#3779105) Homepage
    I have a friend that hosts a few web sites that had a box rooted (wu-ftp exploit). Ammazingly, he happened to be in the system and noticed. He tracerouted the cracker to his static DSL IP -- basically cought the guy red-handed.

    So he contacts the FBI about it. They ask him some questions, like how much money they cost him (basically only a few hours of admin time because he interceeded before any damage took place (the cracked had installed a script to rm -rf / ))

    The FBI declines to do ANYTHING about it because it wasn't high-dollar enough to warrent investigation.

    We hear all this talk about cyber-crime and the potential threat to our national infastructure, but the FBI won't prosecute unless the case is high-profile enough to get them headlines. I don't think this is the message we ought to be sending, that it's OK to root someone's box and nothing will happen to you if the dammage doesn't exceed a certain dollar amount.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:55AM (#3779122)

    I realize there are laws that might spell certain criminal legal action, but this seems like more of a civil suit kind of deal.

    Maybe that's what the cable company wants to do. No one was arrested yet, and the equipment that was confiscated is absolutely necessary to a successful civil case.

  • by Houdini91 ( 588691 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @10:56AM (#3779133)
    I live in Sylvania, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo and use that same ISP. According to the article they served 6 search warrents in Sylvania.

    Geez, I sure am glad *I* decided not to uncap my modem. Wow.

    Oh, and on a completely seperate note I noticed yesterday that I was downloading a file at 125 kb/s. I've never gotten above 110 kb/s before on that ISP...

    I guess those few bandwidth hogs really do affect other users.
  • in other news.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Patrick13 ( 223909 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @11:03AM (#3779184) Homepage Journal
    Due to these actions, cable internet service providers around the world quake in fear of the tens of thousands of people who have just found out that uncapping your cable modem [] is possible.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 27, 2002 @11:11AM (#3779245)
    Buckeye Express is operated by Buckeye CableSystem, which is owned by Block Communications Inc., parent company of The Blade.


  • by hogda02 ( 169391 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @11:19AM (#3779295)

    from the article - "Investigators believe cable modems that connect Buckeye Express customers to the Internet
    were altered, allowing computer users unauthorized access to excessive amounts of bandwidth"[emphasis mine]

    also from the article - "It's against the law. It's a crime we are going to enforce," the detective
    said. Mr. Shryock said changing the modem to use more bandwidth is a violation
    of the customer service agreement
    . [...again emphasis mine]

    ...but here's the part i don't get, and i know a thing or 2 about Networking...

    (very simplified)Example:

    Max bandwidth that Buckeye has = 1Gb/s (with customer cap at 100Mb/s)

    4customers online -

    1st (with cap) downloading at 100Mb/s

    2nd (with cap) downloding at 100Mb/s

    3rd (no cap) downloading at 400Mb/s

    4th (no cap) downloading at 400Mb/s


    When customer 5 comes online it's not like his cable modem is going to go
    "sorry all the bandwidth is being used, try again later".

    And you can correct me if i'm wrong but what should happen is something
    about like this:

    1st (with cap) adjusted to ~ 95Mb/s

    2nd (with cap) adjusted to ~ 95Mb/s

    3rd (no cap ) adjusted to ~360Mb/s

    4th (no cap) adjusted to ~ 360Mb/s

    5th (with cap) downloading at ~ 90Mb/s

    ...and this should hold true to the nth customer coming online, with
    the uncapped customers speeds dropping rapidly to matched the capped customers

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 27, 2002 @11:33AM (#3779383)
    Maybe I am just one of those old moralists or it was my Catholic school up bringing. I think when you take something that is not yours, its stealing. So if you if you signed a contract that states you will only take 1.5Mb/s of bandwidth and you modify a device to take more than 1.5Mb/s, you are stealing along with breaching a contract.

    I find it amusing that people that live on land that they only have because their government killed 11 million people are talking about the morals of theft of bandwidth. Not to mention that it is the same government that has supplied weapons to other countries for invasion of other lands in which many thousand more innocent people were slaughtered.

    On a lighter note I wonder if anyone has even thought about the fact that when the cable companies coax you into the contract to begin with they give you an amount of bandwidth that you should be expecting without any intention of delivering the full amount of bandwidth. Many businesses do this sort of thing. I like the road analogy so I'll stick to that. Lets say they are selling you access to a three lane highway and tell you you can drive up to three cars through this one point at a time. Now they know that most people wouldn't be driving three cars down the highway at the same time so they sell those same three lanes to a whole lot of people now as these people increase conjestion happens. Are they refunding the money you paid for the bandwidth that you aren't capable of getting because they didn't build a big enough pipe. No. So why is it always the corporate interest we protect and not that of the private citizen?
  • Disturbing Tactics (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oldstrat ( 87076 ) on Thursday June 27, 2002 @11:39AM (#3779448) Journal
    From the article: (Bold added by me)
    In all, they seized 23 computers, including three laptops; three hard drives, and 13 cable modems.
    No charges were filed and no arrests were made.

    Really? The government was used to sieze property, not owned by the provider, and not one charge was filed.
    I don't believe this was a legal action, at most the cable modem was something that that could have been taken, not computers, at least not without charges.

    It's so nice to live in Amerika.
  • WTF... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 27, 2002 @12:39PM (#3779921)
    "Detective Beavers said cable officials became aware of the situation in February. "

    So they let them keep going for 4 months? When the company found out they should have killed the accounts. IANAL but I would argue that any extra cost incurred after the Cable Co. found out are less the responsibility of the users and more so that of the company itself. If someone was stealing from me I wouldn't let them keep doing it for four months so I could nail them for a bigger crime. Isn't that entrapment or something?

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.