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Don't Pirate Or We'll Mess With Your Connected Thermostats, Warns East Coast ISP (engadget.com) 252

Internet service provider Armstrong Zoom has roughly a million subscribers in the Northeastern part of the U.S. and is keen to punish those it believes are using file-sharing services. According to Engadget, "the ISP's response to allegedly naughty customers is bandwidth throttling, which is when an ISP intentionally slows down your internet service based on what you're doing online. Armstrong Zoom's warning letter openly threatens its suspected file-sharing customers about its ability to use or control their webcams and connected thermostats." From the report: The East Coast company stated: "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." All U.S. states served by Armstrong Zoom will be experiencing temperatures around or under freezing over the weekend and into the near future. Bandwidth throttling for customers in those areas who have connected thermostats could mean the difference between sickness and health, or even life and death. Seems like an extreme punishment for any allegedly downloaded Game of Thrones cam rips.
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Don't Pirate Or We'll Mess With Your Connected Thermostats, Warns East Coast ISP

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  • by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @09:02PM (#55872699)
    or i will take an axe to your series of pipes
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 05, 2018 @10:31PM (#55873137)

      Just report them to the authorities.
      This threat is no different from "It is a nice house you have here, would be unfortunate if something were to happen to it."

      It is illegal as fuck for them to make a statement like this.

      They aren't law enforcement. If they have a problem with someones possibly illegal online activities they should report it and let a court determine if the action was a copyright violation or not.
      Taking the law in your own hands isn't generally accepted.

      • by serutan ( 259622 ) <snoopdoug AT geekazon DOT com> on Saturday January 06, 2018 @02:11AM (#55873905) Homepage

        I agree that ISPs shouldn't act as copyright cops, judges and juries, but this one isn't threatening to mess with anybody's thermostat. They're just threatening to throttle bandwidth, which realistically could affect the operation of net-enabled devices if say a bit torrent client is hogging the connection.

      • by slack_justyb ( 862874 ) on Saturday January 06, 2018 @02:25AM (#55873941)

        They aren't law enforcement. If they have a problem with someones possibly illegal online activities they should report it and let a court determine if the action was a copyright violation or not.

        No you see lacking an FCC ruling we have to use FTC guidance on the matter (see 740 F.3d 623 [2014]). ISPs have the right under FTC rules to secure their network by any means. If they feel a copyright violation "might" happen, they have a right to secure their network and the FTC gives them any means to do that. Now you have recourse in court if you can show that they blocked your "service" and it's important that FTC meaning of "service" means that ISPs can do everything except cut you completely off, without serving you notice. So pretty much as long as you can ping 8.8.8.8 and you're doing something that gives the ISPs a reasonable cause to fear your traffic. They can do whatever the hell they like since the FCC was granted authority over "traffic" in PL104-104 sec 509 and the FCC has indicated that they're not going to stand behind you on this topic.

        To anyone thinking they'd like to try their hand in court, by all means, have at it. Let me know how it went, but I can assure you it's not going to go the way you think it should.

        This threat is no different from "It is a nice house you have here, would be unfortunate if something were to happen to it."

        Yes it is different. A house is physical and network traffic isn't. That's like the big point of why Congress really needs to fucking act on that whole NN thing. Judges don't see IP packets are things that belong to you, and until someone with law making ability says that packets on someone else's network are yours, they aren't yours, the end.

        • by cstacy ( 534252 )

          No you see lacking an FCC ruling we have to use FTC guidance [...]

          I can assure you it's not going to go the way you think it should.

          The last time I heard someone say that, it went exactly the way I thought it would. And you're not the last Jedi!

      • ..its ability to use or control their webcams and connected thermostats.

        They didn't say they are able to control the webcam or thermostats.
        They merely explain that bandwidth measures they take against p2p sharing may affect other services used over the internet.
        There is no threat there.

    • It seems they watched Big Bang Theory where Sheldon messed with Leonard's thermostat.

      And it also seems they want to go to jail.

  • Hyperbole much? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @09:04PM (#55872713)

    Bandwidth throttling for customers in those areas who have connected thermostats could mean the difference between sickness and health, or even life and death.

    If you are needing to adjust your thermostat using the network, that means you aren't at home to do it manually. You are not where the thermostat controls the temperature. I.e., if you freeze to death because you didn't walk across the room to turn the thermostat up, it ain't the ISPs fault.

    Yeah, maybe death of your pet fish if you aren't home to turn it up and the tank gets too cold, but "difference between ... life and death" is not something you usually hear with reference to fish.

    Or are people facing death from the cold really so lazy that they'd rather freeze than walk across the room?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by darthsilun ( 3993753 )

      If the ISP messes with your thermostat it is their fault. If they do it in the middle of the night when you're asleep, it's their fault. If they do it when you're away and your pipes freeze and flood your house, it's their fault.

      They have no business messing with your thermostat. They aren't the police, or the FBI. It's not their job to enforce the law.

      And if I had the misfortune to be a customer, you can bet I'd be shopping for another ISP right about now.

      • Re:Hyperbole much? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Xenx ( 2211586 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @09:35PM (#55872885)
        They aren't touching the thermostat. They're throttling the internet speed in response to copyright infringement notices. Their terms of use and related documentation likely covers what can happen in regards to copyright infringement. If you don't like that practice, that is a different argument.. one that I would likely side with you on. However, it's up to the customer to understand the policies and what it entails. The ISP isn't targeting smart thermostats or the like, it's only warning the customer of possible issues if their connection is throttled.
        • Re:Hyperbole much? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @10:01PM (#55873019)

          What kind of internet-connected thermostat needs a lot of bandwidth anyway? These things should be able to run on a 300bps modem.

          • by sheramil ( 921315 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @10:56PM (#55873219)

            One that's been taken over by a botnet and is too busy mining Dogecoins to adjust the temperature.

          • by Xenx ( 2211586 )
            I didn't feel like doing the work to figure it out. But decided, why not. Apparently the Nest learning thermostat only requires 50MB/week. Assuming the labeling is correct, and that my math is accurate, that puts it at about 700bps. However, that assume it's constant communication. I would imagine it's polling and the actual requirements would be a bit higher during communication. If it's polling every 15min, that would be about 600kbps? This is all assumption, but the requirements are still damn small. The
        • However, it's up to the customer to understand the policies and what it entails

          Really? Cause I doubt anyone on /. is conversant with every aspect of the EULAs they use. Hell, have you even read the /. terms of use?

          • by Xenx ( 2211586 )
            It's still up to the customer to understand the policies. If they don't want to, then it's on them when something happens. Ignorance is not a defense.
        • They aren't touching the thermostat. They're throttling the internet speed in response to copyright infringement notices. Their terms of use and related documentation likely covers what can happen in regards to copyright infringement. If you don't like that practice, that is a different argument.. one that I would likely side with you on. However, it's up to the customer to understand the policies and what it entails. The ISP isn't targeting smart thermostats or the like, it's only warning the customer of possible issues if their connection is throttled.

          While I agree with you, what happens if the infringement claims turn out to be false and as a result of the ISP acting on them someone suffers real harm? The ISP is already aware that their actions could cause the harm, and the were negligent in not ensuring the claims of infringement were valid before taking action. I'm sure their TOS would have them disclaim any liability but it would be interesting to see if it would hold up in court.They should let the copyright owner take action and not get in the midd

      • Re:Hyperbole much? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by aardvarkjoe ( 156801 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @09:37PM (#55872891)

        They're not "messing with your thermostat." They're messing with your internet connection, which you've connected your thermostat to.

        If lack of internet connectivity is going to cause your house to flood, or your granny to die, then you probably need to re-evaluate how you're using these devices.

        • Yes, depending on your internet to that extent isn't smart. However, intentionally screwing with it this way is a horrible thing to do. "Nice internet connection you have here. Be a shame if something happened to it."

      • they are not interfering with your thermostat at all, they are simply stating pirates may be bandwidth throttled (nothing new or exciting), difference is they point out some of the potential unintended consequences should your bandwidth be throttled.
      • Re:Hyperbole much? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @09:40PM (#55872917)

        If the ISP messes with your thermostat it is their fault.

        Stand still and think for a minute. If an ISP throttles or shuts off your internet connection for any reason, what effect will that have on your internet-controlled thermostat?

        1. 1. It will turn the temperature setting down.
        2. 2. It will turn the temperature setting up.
        3. 3. It will turn your furnace off completely.
        4. 4. You will not be able to change your temperature setting using the external internet, but can still operate it on the local internal network, and otherwise nothing is different including the manual controls.

        The correct answer is "4". The setting you had in place before the network interruption takes place will continue.

        Answers 1-3 are all what could be considered "messing with your thermostat", but only if the ISP actually makes the changes to the settings and not the stupid thermostat changes how it works when it loses a network connection. "Turn all heat off unless there is a constant network connection to some server in China" is a stupid and dangerous operating mode, and you need to blame the thermostat maker for that, not the ISP.

        For the person whose grandmother cannot operate a thermostat unless it is internet connected, then I suggest you get her a locally controlled thermostat instead of relying on the external internet. It is quite possible that the external internet will fail during a severe weather event and she'll be dead even if the ISP had nothing to do with it. Even just a local power failure could take out the wireless access point that the thermostat connects to, as well as the internet modem. This is not a case of the ISP turning something into a "matter of life or death", it's a case of poor planning on how to deal with common modes of failure resulting in a "matter of life or death."

        • No doubt the ISP was referring to customers' server-like nodes on their home networks, such as home automation stuff (which is possibly against their TOS anyway).

          They did not threaten to turn off your furnace during the dead of winter.

      • Yea well, if you buy a dumb 'smart' thermostat that allows a temperature extreme like this then that is your fault.

        At this point, with the current state of 'the internet of things', just having anything critical on the internet like this is your fault.

        - Choose wisely

      • If the ISP messes with your thermostat it is their fault. If they do it in the middle of the night when you're asleep, it's their fault. If they do it when you're away and your pipes freeze and flood your house, it's their fault.

        They have no business messing with your thermostat. They aren't the police, or the FBI. It's not their job to enforce the law.

        And if I had the misfortune to be a customer, you can bet I'd be shopping for another ISP right about now.

        Please re-read that clusterfuck of a summary to help avoid misinterpretation. They are NOT controlling or messing with your thermostat. They are merely stating that bandwidth throttling may interfere with an owners ability to remotely control their own thermostat.

        And quite honesty, if a homeowner has spent the money to buy and install a smart thermostat and yet fail to have it programmed to automatically avoid the ridiculous speculations of freezing pipes or freezing humans, then they are stupid enough to

      • For crying out loud, the isp isn't adjusting anyone's thermostat, they may make it harder for customers to REMOTELY adjust their thermostat.

        Just another completely click-baity /. Headline.

    • by FrankHaynes ( 467244 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @09:32PM (#55872865)

      Yeah, maybe death of your pet fish if you aren't home to turn it up and the tank gets too cold

      When I was a little kid and my older brother went away to Boy Scout camp for the weekend, leaving me in care of his fish tank, I felt sorry for the fish having to swim around in such cold water. So I turned the tank heater all the way up so that they would be warm.

      He was not the least bit happy when he came home to a bunch of dead exotic fish floating on the surface with their eyeballs popped out.

      I am not qualified to be an ISP, either.

    • If you have species that are that sensitive to the cold, not to mention the gradual change given the heavy moderation of all the water in a fish tank, you'll have an automatic heater in there.

      But yes, any "internet connected" thermostat should still have a minimum allowed temperature (mine is 55F) that you can program in, and the worst case is that it is a bit chilly when you get home and turn it up manually.

  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @09:06PM (#55872725) Homepage Journal
    I've said it before, and i will say it again: 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.
    • exactly right on, the ISP's could wield too much power with this, net neutrality is a must otherwise there will be an abuse of power when they start extra judicially start doing what they think is right regardless of the consequences, and if some ISP gets their equipment vandalized because of it then i wont care because i will have a good idea why it happened
    • I don't think Net Neutrality in any way banned ISPs from canceling your service for infringement.
    • by Nutria ( 679911 )

      Or... you could develop the skill of reading beyond the scare tactic hype (by both the ISP and Engadget) and understand that both sides are pumping out nothing but FUD.

  • Hooray! (dupe) (Score:5, Informative)

    by ls671 ( 1122017 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @09:07PM (#55872729) Homepage

    Hooray! I remember reading the exact same story on /. a few days ago.

    Let me google it, "connected thermostat site:slashdot.org". Here we go:

    https://yro.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org]

    Maybe editor should do the same and Google it before posting dupes ;-)

    • So conflicted right now. On the one side if I don't pirate I have heating in my house. On the other side if I pirate I may no longer have to endure dupes!

  • and it turns out a thermostat is cheaper than the stuff people are pirating, so I'm guessing they'll opt for the former.
  • by sunking2 ( 521698 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @09:20PM (#55872799)

    They aren't messing with anything other than saying if you pirate we'll nuke your internet so you won't be able to use all the internet things you like to use. All of this is likely covered in the TOS.

    • Pretty bad. If grandma forwards a stupid email to more than 10 people she could be cut off. If you ask them to install an Ethernet card, they can't guarantee they won't lose all your data on your computer. They may change your provided email address without notice. They poison DNS lookup failures. Tiny 200GB data cap on their lowest tier. Hijacking HTTP requests when near your bandwidth limit.

  • I bet you think your IoT buzzword is great now, motherfuckers.
  • ... that an internet connected device like a thermostat is going to need that they think throttling internet speeds is actually going to make any kind of difference for it?

    In practice temperatures change slowly enough that even getting a single packet every half hour would probably be adequate for keeping a temperature entirely livable.

    • by Nutria ( 679911 )

      Exactly. Both sides (Engadget and the ISP) are doing nothing but spreading the FUD thick and wide.

    • In practice temperatures change slowly enough that even getting a single packet every half hour would probably be adequate for keeping a temperature entirely livable.

      I don't have an internet-connected thermostat because I see no need for it. However, I do have a "thermostat". The job of a thermostat is to turn heating devices (or cooling devices) on and off in a way that it maintains the temperature that it is instructed to maintain.

      As the outside temperature goes down, the heat flux increases outwards and the heating devices need to remain on longer to keep the same temperature. (I.e., pump heat INTO the house so it balances the heat flow going out.)

      At the point whe

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        I wouldn't dispute what you are saying, but I was pointing out that even in the hypothetical use-case where a thermostat is actually going to need constant internet connectivity in order to simply operate as intended, throttling internet connectivity is highly unlikely to impact the practical operation of such a device because temperature changes are quite far from instantaneous, and so its bandwidth needs are generally going to be too low for any such throttling to make a perceptible difference. I would
  • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @09:31PM (#55872861)

    You wouldn't have to worry about your ability to turn it up remotely if you didn't turn it down to start with before you left home.

    It's a pretty well know fact that it takes [i]more[/i] energy to change the temperature in a home than to maintain a set temperature. If you're only in the house every other season that's one thing, but it's these people who insist on micromanaging their heating and cooling on an hourly basis who are missing the point.

    And as for those people who are worried about pipes freezing -- they shouldn't be turning their furnace completely off to start with. Leave the thermostat at 50 degrees at least. Leave the cabinets open to allow the pipes better circulation with the warm air in the house (it's not like you're home anyway to be bothered by those doors), get pipe warmers and just hook them up and leave them plugged in. Heck. I bet you could set up a smarthome system that would turn them on and off for you using local temperature sensors (no internet needed). But instead, you buy a three hundred dollar thermostat and pay for internet service for an empty house for months you're not there, and you call this "saving money".

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      SeaFox writes
      > It's a pretty well known fact that it takes [i]more[/i] energy to change the temperature in a home than to maintain a set temperature.

      Not according to Max Sherman, a "senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory overseeing research for residential energy efficiency." According to http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/sc-cons-1113-karpspend-20141107-column.html:

      "Another common refrain is that it's cheaper to keep your home at a constant temperature, even when you're not ho

    • It's a pretty well know fact that it takes [i]more[/i] energy to change the temperature in a home than to maintain a set temperature.

      Wait, what? It's a pretty well-known fact that the rate of thermal transfer is based on the difference in temperatures between the hot and cold objects. If you permit your house to cool down while you're gone, and then warm it up in time for you to get there, you will definitely save energy as compared to keeping it hot the whole time.

      • Wait, what? It's a pretty well-known fact that the rate of thermal transfer is based on the difference in temperatures between the hot and cold objects. If you permit your house to cool down while you're gone, and then warm it up in time for you to get there, you will definitely save energy as compared to keeping it hot the whole time.

        Depends on technology. If heat is from electricity or combustion then yes there will be a slight reduction in consumption by turning down stat for a significant percentage of a day.

        If on the other hand you have a heat pump the most energy efficient configuration is to set a temperature and leave it be for multiple reasons. The most salient being resistive heating is much less efficient than any possible gains from temporarily reducing temperature.

        • If on the other hand you have a heat pump the most energy efficient configuration is to set a temperature and leave it be for multiple reasons. The most salient being resistive heating is much less efficient than any possible gains from temporarily reducing temperature.

          The difference is not between heat pump and heater. The difference is between well-insulated and not, unless it's so cold that a heat pump won't actually work.

  • Don't bother with the thermostat threat. Go right for where it hurts. Point out that PornHub will buffer like crazy.
  • Everyone knows only the man of the house touches the thermostat

  • A POS of a company if this is true. They are praying on the ignorance of any customer unforunately forced to use them as an ISP. This Company is poison and extremely unethical to scare their customers that do not understand current tech!

    Just my 2 cents ;)
    • They are praying on the ignorance of any customer unforunately forced to use them as an ISP. This Company is poison and extremely unethical to scare their customers that do not understand current tech!

      I see you didn't read the letter that the summary linked to. Here's the relevant part, copied by hand since the link was an image:

      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.

      This is a pretty straight-forward statement that if they turn your internet off due to TOS violations (and this letter is pretty clear that this is not the first contact about the problem

  • When your connection gets throttled it throttles everything. That also might affect your VoIP service and everything else connected to your internet.

  • An excellent argument (as if we needed another) of why the "Internet of Things" is and was a terrible idea. Because even if the ISP never carries out such a threat, any network failure could just as easily cripple everybody's Echos and Nests. My computer and smartphones connect to the Internet; my fridge, stove, thermostat and other appliances don't need to.

    And never will.

    • An excellent argument (as if we needed another) of why the "Internet of Things" is and was a terrible idea.

      It is not a generic argument against IoT devices, only stupidly programmed life-critical devices. If your IoT thermostat does the sensible thing of "maintain current settings" when losing internet connectivity, then losing internet connectivity won't result in anyone freezing to death. Only if your IoT thermostat dumps all settings and reverts to "off" when it cannot communicate with a remote server would it be an excellent argument against IoT.

      any network failure could just as easily cripple everybody's Echos and Nests.

      Echos require internet to send your audio back for voice recogn

      • A couple of years ago, an Amazon Echo user had programmed all of his light switches to be voice-controlled. He regretted that about 2AM one night when he lost internet connectivity and all the lights turned on and the Echo devices started sounding an alarm tone. I don't have an Echo; I even refused one when Amazon offered me a free one for being a good customer. (When I refused the Echo, they offered the equivalent in Amazon credit, which I was delighted to accept.) So I can't really speak to whether t

  • "Bandwidth throttling for customers in those areas who have connected thermostats could mean the difference between sickness and health, or even life and death."

    Complete bullshit, how much bandwidth is required to adjust a thermostat?

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Its not how little bandwidth a thermostat needs, its how much the speed can be further reduced.
  • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @10:30PM (#55873127) Journal
    and don't have anything online that can be seen by any other network.
    Keep your home and its needed networks away from the open internet.
    Use the ISP internet with a VPN.
    Find other ways to secure the CCTV so CCTV keeps working.
  • Because quite a bunch of you have no idea what a Thermostat is, or why it's even "Internet enabled" to begin with if you think is even remotely close to being an issue. How can you call yourselves nerds and not even have a smidgen of a clue of how a Thermostat operates and what it is used for ?

    The heck do Internet thermostats even have to do with this story ? ISP throttles you if they catch you infringing copyright. That's it. That doesn't impact your Thermostat at all.

    Even my freaking Grand mother know

  • Looks like at least this ISP no longer wants to be a common carrier and it does want to be responsible for all data on its lines. Looks like a trap to me.
  • What happens when there is a real story about something important and people dismiss it as more senseless noise by know nothing trolls?

    I suspect the answer is probably nothing...

  • And now I can't turn on my furnace from my mobile phone... itttt'ssss cccooolllddd in here. I can't get up to turn it on because the floor is covered with ice after pipes froze and burst after the power company also shut off my power for non-payment. I fall down every time I try to stand.

    To make matters worse my phone will only let me dial 911 and the Internet does not work. I tried calling 911 and explained to them not having Internet access is an emergency but the rude person on the other end says I'll

  • People that buy thermostat, which depends on external server for proper operation deserve to be frozen to death.

    What they'll do if not the evil will of ISP, but natural force would cut them off internet?
    For instance if snowstorm would uproot couple of poles and break the wires?

    (Really the electricity would also be cut, so you'll need to keep a gasoline generator in the basement if your heating depend on electricity).

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