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Piracy The Internet United States

Piracy Notices Can Mess With Your Thermostat, ISP Warns (torrentfreak.com) 242

U.S. Internet provider Armstrong has warned persistent pirates on its network of limiting their access to the thermostats if they didn't play by its rules. From a report: Our attention was caught by a recent letter the company sent to one of its users. The ISP points out that it received multiple copyright infringement notices, urging the customer to stop, or else. [...] While reduced Internet speeds are bad enough, there's another scary prospect. The reduced service level may also prevent subscribers from controlling their thermostat remotely. Not ideal during the winter. "Please be advised that this may affect other services which you may have connected to your internet service, such as the ability to control your thermostat remotely or video monitoring services." Accused pirates who want their full service restored, and regain control over their thermostats, have to answer some copyright questions and read an educational piece about copyright infringement.
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Piracy Notices Can Mess With Your Thermostat, ISP Warns

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    See subject

    • by saloomy ( 2817221 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @12:41PM (#55816387)

      They are only pointing out what other ancillary services might be interrupted if the ISP shuts off the Internet. The ISP is hoping scare tactics will result in compliance. I donâ(TM)t think the ISP intends to log into the device and change its password or anything like that. They are merely saying âoethink of everything else you use the Internet for, donâ(TM)t lose all that functionality because you are piratingâ.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by Penguinisto ( 415985 )

        /* get off my lawn mode */ ...and this is probably real good reason why you shouldn't put vital crap like home HVAC into the IoT bucket. Getting up to change the thermostat once in awhile isn't going to kill you, and while an automated home HVAC control setup might save you a few pennies each month, there are models out there which don't require an Internet connection or smartphone app that perform much the same energy-saving measures. /* end */

        • I would say a mechanical thermostat like a Honeywell Econostat is good enough. Yes, it may break due to the bimetallic spring and movement, but they are vary reliable. As an added bonus, without physical access, they can't be accessed from remote.

          It may be nice to have a programmable thermostat to raise/lower temperature, but it definitely isn't a necessity.

          What gets me is that there are thermostats out there that would malfunction or not work if they didn't have a constant internet connection. These dev

          • by gnick ( 1211984 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @01:56PM (#55817101) Homepage

            It may be nice to have a programmable thermostat to raise/lower temperature, but it definitely isn't a necessity.

            I'd really like to kill the heat when I go to bed and have it kick back on about an hour before my alarm goes off. If I owned the thermostat in my apartment, that would be worth the upgrade. That does not require IoT access. Being able to control the temperature in my apartment from work seems like a useless feature.

            What gets me is that there are thermostats out there that would malfunction or not work if they didn't have a constant internet connection.

            What good's a thermostat that can't help with a DDoS attack?

            • "I'd really like to kill the heat when I go to bed and have it kick back on about an hour before my alarm goes off." ... "Being able to control the temperature in my apartment from work seems like a useless feature."

              If your buying into automation of the heat in general I am surprised you don't see the value. It allows you, if you have portable internet, to be more dynamic with that mentality you are already familiar with. For instance, when leaving work you can turn on the heat so its warmed up when you get

  • by ugen ( 93902 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @12:27PM (#55816265)

    Your internet provider is a conduit on which multiple services rely. It cannot and should not, by law, be used to control or limit access, or police content either of it's own accord or upon request of external parties.

    Of course, personally, I am strongly against connecting any devices (other than computers) in my home to the outside facing network, but that's beside the point.

    • I can't access the original article, but it sounds to me like the "smart" thermostat is provided by the cable company. In which case this probably isn't a net neutrality issue.
      • If it were a smart thermostat provided by the cable company and it suddenly stopped functioning it could possibly cause damage to the home broken pipes etc... (it's cold enough today where I live) though my cable company doesn't supply thermostats but the power company does.

        This could be a problem for the cable company where as the copyright holder may be able to to ask for the content to be removed or the customer to cease the cable company would still be liable for damages if they cut off service to a sma

        • smart thermostat provided by the cable company??? so like the cost to rent it is will be over it's full cost in less then a year.

          • My power company has a smart thermostat program where they control the thermostat to give you a reduced power bill. My neighbor wasn't smart enough to tell them to go to hell and found that they were saving him money by turning the AC off during the day when most people are at work except him he is retired...

            • by afidel ( 530433 )

              Unless his house has zero insulation a load shedding programs shouldn't be a big deal. In every case I've seen the maximum time period an individual subscriber should be shed is 2 hours and even my 1963 low insulation house only has a delta T of about 1 degree F per hour, 2 degrees of rise is barely noticeable.

        • I wonder what this alleged thermostat is, if it exists because even a poorly designed connected thermostat should still operate with lower bandwidth. The wording in the paperwork suggests that you might have problems accessing it remotely and that only makes sense if the internet is disconnected. Well, maybe if you have a saturated link combined with a shitty router.

      • it sounds to me like the "smart" thermostat is provided by the cable company. In which case this probably isn't a net neutrality issue.

        It wouldn't be a NN violation no matter who provided the thermostat. What the ISP is saying isn't "we're going to block all traffic going to your thermostat", but "we're going to limit all of your internet traffic in total, and this will affect IoT devices such as your thermostat."

        Since they aren't targeting specific traffic based on where it's coming from, there's nothing related to net neutrality here.

    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @12:47PM (#55816439) Journal
      Maybe not so much net neutrality (although we need that too), but more of a case to start treating ISPs like utilities, with strict rules on how and why your service may be suspended.
    • Your internet provider is a conduit on which multiple services rely. It cannot and should not, by law, be used to control or limit access, or police content either of it's own accord or upon request of external parties.

      There are plenty of things your ISP "should not be" but the fact remains they are required to play by the rules passed by the lawmakers. If a law is passed saying they are required to cut you off if you pirate the new Star Wars movie, then that's what they have to do. They may (or may no

      • Ah, but they aren't doing that. They are going to cut you off if you are merely accused.

      • they need to get a court order and not some auto take down.

      • by vux984 ( 928602 )

        This is true, but also a bit naive. The ISP has a lot of responsibilty for the laws that get written -- to the point that they are often writing the laws the politicians sign.

        Fire the politicians absolutely, but lets not pretend that the ISP is an innocent bystander.

        Although in the case of piracy, its more the movie industry than the ISP that is writing the laws ... but in some cases the movie industry and the ISP are related companies so perhaps its a distinction without much difference.

        The upshot here is,

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          The bigger problem here is that piracy is rarely proven to any legal standard. They just send the notice to essentially random people based on flawed detection methods. You either accept the arbitrary punishment or go to court, which costs you a lot of money.

          For that reason courts in the UK have clamped down on the claims quite a bit. There is a huge imbalance of power and the copyright trolls rely on it to function.

          It's a lot like the DMCA situation. Costly to defend, and no punishment for false claims.

      • If a law is passed saying they are required to cut you off if you pirate the new Star Wars movie, then that's what they have to do.

        True, but there is no such law.

    • "Accused pirates who want their full service restored, and regain control over their thermostats, have to answer some copyright questions and read an educational piece about copyright infringement"

      Yeah, fuck everything about that. Accused != guilty and to decree that those accused have to perform some remedial task akin to completing an anger management course before they get what they paid for back again is spoiling for a lawsuit for breach of contract.

    • Net Neutrality only applied to legal content.

      https://www.usatoday.com/story... [usatoday.com]

      WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to implement new net neutrality rules designed to make sure Internet service providers treat all legal content equally.

      Emphasis mine.

      I.e. even if Net Neutrality still applied they'd be allowed to block or throttle bittorrent. And legally they can probably have a 'three strikes and you're out' policy.

      What's probably legally dubious even now is to block IOT access to customers who torrent. E.g. if you share an internet connection with someone who torrents and the ISPs blocks access to some critical IOT device, can you sue? Over a heating system I g

      • even if Net Neutrality still applied they'd be allowed to block or throttle bittorrent

        They are not a court. They cannot rule on whether data is legal or illegal. There are legal uses to Bittorrent - it's a great way to download Linux ISOs for one.

        • If people are downloading Game.of.Thrones.S07E07.The.Dragon.and.the.Wolf.AMZN.WEBRip.DDP2 it's pretty obviously illegal and the ISP is allowed to block it.

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @01:54PM (#55817085)
      Either ISPs are a common carrier, or they aren't. If they're a common carrier, they're agnostic to the traffic they carry. In exchange, they're indemnified from liability for that traffic.

      If ISPs argue they can throttle or assign certain traffic to fast lanes (anti-net neutrality), then they're arguing they're not common carriers. If they're not common carriers, then they're liable for the traffic they carry. They will have to track down pirates on their network and enforce copyright lest the copyright holders sue them instead of the actual pirates. They will have to monitor traffic for people plotting crimes, lest they be held liable for aiding and abetting. And if a member of a drug cartel conducts illegal banking transactions, the ISP will be on the hook for money laundering. Someone looks up ways to get away with murder, the ISP will be found complicit. If you can monitor your traffic to detect piracy, what's your excuse for not monitoring it to detect these other things?

      That's the Pandora's box the ISPs will open if they decide they don't want to be agnostic to the traffic they carry. But like most people, they're tempted by only the positives of a course of action and blindly ignore the negatives.
      • But like most people, they're tempted by only the positives of a course of action and blindly ignore the negatives.

        I think what you mean is that the executives think an action will result in the stock price going up now, and will be able to jump ship before the negative long term consequences catch up with them.

    • by torkus ( 1133985 )

      Agreed. This is a big part of the reason some countries are making internet access a basic human right.

      We're still in the early teething stages for some of it, but we already see how things like security systems, heat, electricity, news/warnings/emergency notifications, grocery and other life necessity ordering, etc. all can and do routinely involve internet access in their various ways. Yes, you can go to the electric company and pay your bill in pennies...assuming you are able to get there. You could m

      • by bws111 ( 1216812 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @03:52PM (#55817893)

        You do realize that the reason for the 'segregated TV packages' is so that you don't have to pay for things you don't want or need, right? By far, MOST complaints about cable TV pricing is not about things people DON'T get, it is about having to pay for things they DON'T want. People don't want LESS granularity in cable, they want MORE.

    • I am strongly against connecting any devices (other than computers) in my home to the outside facing network

      Define "computer".

    • Your internet provider is a conduit on which multiple services rely. It cannot and should not, by law, be used to control or limit access, or police content either of it's own accord or upon request of external parties.

      Of course, personally, I am strongly against connecting any devices (other than computers) in my home to the outside facing network, but that's beside the point.

      Some people just don't get it. This right here, piracy, nothing to do with net neutraility. Zero. About the only relation is Comcast blocking Bittorent cuz it's primary use case is piracy. In fact, that's sort of what gave birth to NN as a law. Anyway, Zero relation. In fact, ISP's are required by the DMCA to take efforts to stop piracy if a content creator reports it occurring on their network. Failure to attempt to block or disconnect illegitimate usage will negate safe harbor rules and the ISP its

  • by nwaack ( 3482871 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @12:30PM (#55816287)
    ...it would be a real shame if something were to *happen* to it.
  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @12:35PM (#55816331)

    If you are violating the ISP terms of services, then services may be termed.
    Is having your Thermostat blocked that big of a deal? So you get home and your home is 50 degrees and you have to turn it up. and be cold for about an hour?
    I mean what would happen if your ISP had an outage? Does your IoT fail when there is no connection?

    • Copyright notices automatically generated by the tens of thousands by a 3rd party for another 3rd party aren't accurate enough to be considered proof of you violating the ISPs policy.
    • I was under the impression that if these IoT thermostats can't connect to the Internet, they just plain stop working completely.
  • ISP name (Score:4, Funny)

    by Calydor ( 739835 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @12:42PM (#55816397)

    Armstrong? More like Strongarm.

  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @12:44PM (#55816417)

    Another reason to get a VPN.

    • by EvilSS ( 557649 )

      Another reason to get a VPN.

      This. If you are torrenting in the clear in the US (or any country with laws similar to ours) you're an idiot.

      • Depends on what you're torrenting.

        If you download movie theater recorded "CAM"s of currently playing movies, you will get a letter from your ISP. If you're patient enough to wait for the BD-rip, you won't.

        If you download episodes of Big Bang Theory, or Game of Thrones, you will get a letter from your ISP. If you're downloading episodes of Mr. Show, you won't.

        Things that are current and popular are aggressively defended.
        • by EvilSS ( 557649 )
          I stand by my original statement. If you are torrenting in the clear you are at risk of more than a DMCA notice forwarded from your ISP. Or have we all forgotten the RIAA end-user lawsuits already? That's still a legal possibility if some studio decides they've had enough. Unlike streaming or that method we don't talk about, torrenting opens you up to being targeted as a distributor and that has some hefty financial pain behind it. Just because they haven't done it yet doesn't mean they won't. Only a foo
        • by Falos ( 2905315 )

          Popularity is a correlation; it directly depends on benefactors being approached by services that probably have a word like "mitigation" in their name.

          They pitch noise like "Game of Thrones was downloaded 80,000 times that's one MILLION dollars of moneys, so you're losing out by not hiring us for the bargain of $50,000"

          Then there's a second powerpoint at the end of the contract, "we got 40,000 super-serious emails sent which definitely means we scored you like, all the cash ever, in totally-real dollars, so

    • I was using this pwned thermostat as my VPN endpoint though!

    • Or better, another reason to not have your essential services require Internet access.

  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @12:48PM (#55816455)

    Sure, a single point of failure is outside of your control may fail but four single points of failure stacked atop each other (power/network hardware/ISP/server) is a recipe for disaster.

  • by JohnFen ( 1641097 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @12:49PM (#55816461)

    Yet another great reason to not to connect things to the internet without a great reason.

  • by thegreatbob ( 693104 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @12:54PM (#55816495) Journal
    Dumb pipes or bust. Most people don't need/want the dumb pipe it seems, but at least make it available. They could literally charge more for doing less, but they don't want to, I guess.
  • by CaptainDork ( 3678879 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @01:09PM (#55816647)

    ... is contract law.

    I don't have a problem with the ISP, but I have a problem with the ToS.

    Copyright owners should be going directly after the perpetrators.

    Why don't we have a ToS with the electric company that NO powered devices will work if we violate copyright?

  • by Archon ( 13753 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @01:23PM (#55816763)

    This isn't messing with your thermostat, it's interfering with remote access back to it when you're gone. Something I'm pretty sure 99% of us can't do now anyway and for the 1% who do, lack a substantial need.

    • I might guess - and it's only guess, but a plausible one - that their anti-piracy measures may involve blocking incoming connections. It's a good way to render p2p clients less capable without impacting web browsing.

  • "Smart" devices (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thad Boyd ( 880932 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @01:24PM (#55816775) Homepage

    The good news is that consumers appear to be getting the message that "smart" devices are dangerous; from what I've read, sales are way down. Security vulnerabilities are the most obvious issue, but there's also stuff like this (the vendor fucking with you for unrelated reasons) and the question of long-term support.

    Heating and cooling can be matters of life and death. I wouldn't entrust them to the Internet. (Monitoring them, sure, but not controlling them.)

    • Heating and cooling can be matters of life and death. I wouldn't entrust them to the Internet. (Monitoring them, sure, but not controlling them.)

      At least not without a non-connected way to control them in case of outages, hacking, or vendor being an @$$.

    • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

      The good news is that consumers appear to be getting the message that "smart" devices are dangerous; from what I've read, sales are way down. Security vulnerabilities are the most obvious issue, but there's also stuff like this (the vendor fucking with you for unrelated reasons) and the question of long-term support. Heating and cooling can be matters of life and death. I wouldn't entrust them to the Internet. (Monitoring them, sure, but not controlling them.)

      Your comment doesn't make sense in the context of the article. As the summary itself said, if your internet access is downgraded, then you might not be able to control your thermostat REMOTELY. Nothing about local control.

      And yes, anyone who actively wants to remotely control their thermostat (i.e. the ones who might be affected by this) are precisely the ones that want a "smart" device. By definition.

    • The good news is that consumers appear to be getting the message that "smart" devices are dangerous

      Meh. I doubt there's a smart thermostat on the market that doesn't have a safety temperature.

    • by afidel ( 530433 )

      Yup, there's been so much fuckery with IoT stuff and companies closing I'd never trust cloud dependent stuff. I am looking at OpenHAB though for some home automation, you run your own local Hub and can even your own cloud service (ie they make the cloud portion open source too!). Combine that with an open source project I found for ESP8266 based smart devices and now I can do everything that the commercial programs do (and more) without giving up control to anyone else. The local hub will allow everything t

  • Gotcha now (Score:5, Funny)

    by drjoe1e6 ( 461358 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @01:43PM (#55816993)

    Alright, you filthy pirates... Freeze!

  • What online IoTish thermostat doesn't have a well-defined offline mode in the first place? Is NEST like that? I don't have one but was thinking about it.

    There should be no such thing as an online device that doesn't behave properly when the Internet service goes down. Obviously it can't do everything it can do when the service is up but it should at least be programmable to do something reasonable if not desirable.

  • by AlanObject ( 3603453 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @01:58PM (#55817109)

    I never heard of someone getting their phone service cut because they were doing something illegal with it.

    WTF is an ISP doing trying to play law enforcer? The authorities should get a warrant, tap the traffic, then make an arrest. Or not, if it turns out the evidence wasn't correct.

    Then the ISP should update their watchdog software to not give such false positives.

    • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

      I never heard of someone getting their phone service cut because they were doing something illegal with it. WTF is an ISP doing trying to play law enforcer? The authorities should get a warrant, tap the traffic, then make an arrest.

      I think the whole system was designed to continue protect the government's grant of copyright, but without the huge drain on the public coffers that your proposal would involve.

  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @02:13PM (#55817233) Journal

    ...is a good idea?

    • Or maybe it's ripping off terabytes of other people's intellectual property that's the bad idea.
  • Jamming radio frequencies is illegal. How is effectively 'jamming' someones internet-connected devices in this way, devices which have no relation whatsoever to the alleged 'illegal activities' the ISP is complaining about, really any different? At the least it sounds like extortion. Considering that all these IoT devices like thermostats must 'phone home' to the manufacturers servers to function, I'd think the manufacturer would have a problem with it legally, too.

    In a broader sense, this is the questio
    • You might be interested to follow that net neutrality thing a little more closely. This is actually a very good argument for it.

  • a Programmable and s "Smart" thermostat.

    I'd be more concerned about medical equipment in the home that depends on constant internet access to keep someone alive or safe losing connectivity.

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @04:35PM (#55818101)

    My dad used to have a remote monitor for his pacemaker that sent data over the internet to his doctor. Without the remote monitoring, he'd have to make regular trips to the doctor for monitoring (and having an elderly man driving on snowy roads is a risk of its own)

    The internet is becoming a utility, and it should be regulated as such - the power company can't turn off your power just because they think you're using electricity to grow marijuana. They can, however, tip off the police about the suspected grow house, but they can't turn off your power.

  • by LeftCoastThinker ( 4697521 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2017 @04:45PM (#55818165)

    This is why we need legislation that treats internet access like the US used to treat the mail. Where mail service used to connect each citizen to the rest of the world and the fidelity of the service was vigorously protected, today we have the internet that does essentially the same thing for the modern world. As such internet access and protection of email should be enshrined into law as a basic right with the same protections of privacy as was the original US mail service.

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