FFC To Create “Nutrition Labels” For Your Broadband

The Federal Communications Commission do a lot of things, including monitoring and investigating companies which have less than kind business practices. In their latest attempt to help people they’ve taken their inspiration from something we see (and ignore for the most part) everyday, nutrition labels.

In their latest attempt to give consumers a fair few the new nutrition labels will be used to help customers understand both home internet service providers (ISP’s) and mobile carriers. While not mandatory carriers are being “urged” to use the labels which will give you an idea about the following properties:

  • Price
    • This includes all those hidden fees they often hide, such as line rental or limited discounts
  • Data Caps
    • Ever felt like you may be getting a slower service? You should be able to see if you’ve hit your data usage cap, if one even exists
  • Speed
    • This will be included alongside things like latent and packet loss, giving you an idea not just how fast your service would be but also how reliable it is to

ISP’s are free to come up with their own labels, but they must be made in an “accurate, understandable and easy-to-find manner”.

Examples of the Broadband and Mobile labels can be found below.

Hoping to avoid the surprise fee’s that account for more than 2,000 complaints received by the FCC, the new labels could help people decide on the company that’s right for them, rather than the advertisement that fools the most.

Internet Service Providers Can’t Use Targeted Adverts Without Customers Permission

When you go online, you will often find yourself surrounded by targeted adverts that seem to want you browsing every site and buying every product on the planet. More often than not you will find that these products and sites somehow know about what you’ve been looking at. Targeted adverts have long been the pain of many people, with information about you being used in selling you everything under the sun. This may change though with Internet Service Providers being told they can’t target ads without customers permission in recent legislation.

ISP’s are the central point for all your internet traffic, with everything you do online going through their systems. From your location in the world to the very content of your websites (including medical or financial details). While the new legislation, targeted adverts wouldn’t be illegal but instead the data used to create them would be more heavily controlled, not by the companies but by the people the data is about.

AT&T currently do this, offering a $29 discount per month if their customers agree to data collection and targeted ads. With the Federal Communications Commission looking to hear the public’s opinion about being charged for not opting into targeted ads, you may get a little bit of control back over your details.

UK Government Considering Fining ISPs For Unclear T&Cs

Purchasing any service-based contract including mobile phones, electricity or internet access can be very confusing. This is down to the complex small print which many people simply disregard. It’s not surprising though given the baffling terms which sometimes have a number of contradictions. Plus, many customers don’t have the time to read sit and read through a wall of text using a tiny font. Companies know this and exploit the notion that hardly anyone reads the terms and conditions of a contract. For example, internet service providers usually outline their traffic management system and bandwidth restrictions during peak times. This means with some ISPs, you might have “unlimited downloads” but the speed is capped to a ridiculously slow rate after so much data has been downloaded within a 24 hour period. As such, it’s so important to read the fine print or ask an independent expert about a service’s restrictions.

The UK government has launched a new consultation to make companies adopt an easier-to-understand small print and anyone who doesn’t comply could face hefty fines. According to the Terms and Conditions and Consumer Protection Fining Powers paper, ISPs should clearly outline “the average monthly cost as well as the total charge”. Additionally, the government may require companies to list their terms in a “bolt and upfront” manner. Online retailers would have to reformat the small print to make it legible on smartphones and consumers could receive a cheaper tariff for reading a contract’s terms and conditions. The government is clearly trying to encourage customers to read the small print but this is easier said than done.

We live in a very fast modern world where people work long hours and have limited spare time. However, you should always adopt a cynical approach and make time to read a contract’s small print to ensure the service provided is what you expect.

All BBC Services are Currently Down

The BBC is currently suffering from intermittent internet service outages this morning. All BBC web-based services have been affected including iPlayer and the main news website.

DownDetector has shown a dramatic rise in reports of the websites being unavailable from around 7am too, the website is showing 500 error pages, with some parts of the website not loading at all, and others partially loading. It seems that radio and television broadcasting services are not affected but many of the services remain offline.

BBC have tweeted an apology via their Twitter account.

The last outage that the BBC encountered was back in 2011 due to technical issues and later in 2o12 the BBC revealed that it had been under cyber attack which took its telephone and e-mail services offline. However, the cause of this outage has not currently been confirmed, but we will post more information as we find it.

https://twitter.com/MintRoyale/status/682480371112505345?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

When such a big website goes down, it can be a major inconvenience for quite a lot of people. Especially for a site like BBC, which is a hub for many around the world for breaking news, weather, and so much more.

Sky Broadband to Block Porn by Default in 2016

From the start of 2016, UK internet service provider Sky Broadband will automatically block “adult content”, including pornography, by default, according to The Telegraph. Sky will be implementing its existing Broadband Shield content filter – a system that was previously optional to customers – as standard for its new customers. Existing customers will be contacted in the coming weeks to ask if they would like the filter turned on. If Sky does not receive a response to the e-mail query, it will turn the filter on without permission.

The move follows legislation introduced by UK Prime Minister David Cameron two years ago that requires ISPs to implement ‘opt out’ adult content filters. Other ISPs, such as BT, Virgin Media, and TalkTalk, have already introduced similar default porn blocks, despite the legislation being found to be in breach of the European Union’s current net neutrality rules.

“We believe that this ‘default on’ approach will mean much greater use of home filters and ensure a safer internet experience for millions of homes,” Lyssa McGowan, Sky’s Brand Director for Communications Products, said. “It came about as we looked for the best way to meet the Prime Minister’s objective of providing more protection for children when they use the internet.”

Comcast CEO Calls For an End to Unlimited Data

Of all the major internet service providers, the most universally derided is Comcast and its outdated data caps, a policy that the company’s internal memos reveal is a cynical marketing ploy. Now, the CEO of Comcast, Brian Roberts, has spoken to Business Insider about its data policy, with Roberts advocating the abolition of unlimited data, equating it to giving unlimited fuel for motor-vehicle drivers.

“Just as with every other thing in your life, if you drive 100,000 miles or 1,000 miles you buy more gasoline. If you turn on the air conditioning to 60 vs. 72 you consume more electricity,” Roberts told Business Insider’s Henry Blodget during the IGNITION conference on Tuesday. “The same is true for [broadband] usage.” Cellular data is already billed this way, “the more bits you use, the more you pay. So why not cable Internet, too?”

Roberts also disputed the semantics of the term “data cap”, asserting that it does not prevent customers from exceeding their data limit, instead charging them for the excess. “They’re not a cap,” he said. “We don’t want anybody to ever not want to stay connected on our network.”

Roberts may just be saying what other ISPs are thinking, but vocalising it may not be the smartest business move, and only reinforces the perception of Comcast as putting profits above customers, and risks them losing ground to the emergent Google Fiber, which offers unlimited data as standard.

Image courtesy of Comcast.

Juniper Networks Finds ‘Unauthorised’ Code in Its Software

Cyber security and the integrity of applications are essential for consumers to have confidence their details will be kept safe and not intercepted by a third-party. Well known internet hardware company Juniper networks have issued a warning concerning a discovery it has made within its firewall software, which could have led to a third-party being able to decrypt data which has been sent through an encrypted VPN (Virtual Private Network)

During a recent internal code review, it was discovered that “unauthorised code” had somehow made its way into Juniper’s ScreenOS software, it’s interesting to note that many ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and also large firms implement the companies routers and network switches. The vulnerability could have allowed a third-party, or as the company refers to the threat as a “Knowledgeable attacker”, could be 12-year-old for all we know, to gain administrative access to NetScreen devices and to decrypt VPN connections.

The unwanted slice of extra code has been present within different versions of ScreenOS since 2012. Juniper has confirmed that it is not aware or received any reports of the vulnerabilities being exploited and urges everyone running the affected devices to quickly apply the released patches with the aim of stripping the unauthorised code out of its firewall software ASAP.

It’s a serious breach and questions will surely be asked concerning how the code managed to make its way into the software.

Image courtesy of smarteranalyst

Proposed “Online Safety Bill” Being Debated In the House Of Lords

Guess whose back? Indeed after a short hiatus I am back and raring to be creative concerning my written articles for eTeknix, although, in reality it has only been around 6 weeks since my last piece. So, what to write? I know, let’s delve into the proposed “Online Safety Bill” which is currently being debated in the UK courtesy of the House of Lords.

According to reports on the government’s own Parliament website, the bill is being debated at the “1st sitting committee stage” and proposes a law to compel “internet service providers and mobile phone operators to provide an internet service that excludes adult content” This includes provisions to offer strict and compulsory age verification checks to NSFW sites and also a role for Ofcom. There are also proposals to educate parents through digital on demand programme services and a licensing scheme for such websites.

It will be interesting to see how the debate develops and also the challenges of implementing such a law, after all, ISPs will first have to define what constitutes an “adult” website before blocking it to individuals who are under the age of 18. A further interesting angle is the proposal to “require electronic device manufacturers to provide a means of filtering internet content”.

Logically these proposals are unworkable and may in all probability be circumvented by various tech means; there is also the question of legitimate and educational sites that might fall under the banner of such a law. Another aspect which could cause concern is the proposed age verification checks, the only way this could be implemented is for a mechanism to be introduced to verify consumers through official identification without it being intercepted by hackers and a myriad of external cyber threats.

Image courtesy of echo

US Fed­er­al Judges May Help ISPs Undermine Net Neutrality

Federal judges in the US could force the Federal Communications Commission to decimate its own net neutrality ruling. Internet service providers have been fighting the FCC ever since the government body reclassified internet services under Title II of the Com­mu­nic­a­tions Act, according to the National Journal. At the behest of ISPs, three Federal judges at the D.C. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals are currently putting that reclassification under the microscope, which may see the concept of a free and open internet sold out.

Lawyers working on behalf of ISPs argue that internet services should be classified as ‘information services’ like Google or Netflix, rather than ‘telecommunications services’ like telephones, due to the cost of storing and sending large quantities of data.

On Friday, Judge Steph­en Wil­li­ams asked lawyers from the FCC why companies should not be allowed to charge extra for internet “fast lanes?” asserting that, “If you get something spe­cial, you pay something spe­cial.”

The Appeals panel is also looking at what constitutes an internet network. For example, mobile internet for smartphones and tablets is distributed via mobile (cell) phone networks, while broadband operates through fibre or cable, so why should they be considered the same “network”?

“You nev­er know with these guys,” me­dia at­tor­ney An­drew Schwartz­man, a supporter of net neutrality, told re­port­ers. “They probed very, very ag­gress­ively both sides. My sense of it, for what it’s worth—and we’ll know in four months—is that they were sat­is­fied with the com­mis­sion’s explan­a­tions.”

Whatever the panel decides – ruling in favour of either the FCC or ISPs – it is expected that the losing side will take the case to the Supreme Court.

National Security Letters Are Starting To Be Exposed

Security and secrecy are commonplace these days, with hacks and threats all around the world coming together in the digital world. Not only does our information being accessible from all over the world pose a danger, but we also have the threat that even the people we trust, the very organisation that pertain to protect us, can get to this information. One way of doing this within the U.S. has been the National security letter, but finally some light is being shed on what these actually contain.

National Security Letters (NSL) is a tool which means that federal investigators can request a person’s information from any organisation it deems necessary, your doctors or car dealer, your bank or your even your work. The problem people have had with these documents is that all they need to be considered valid is an agent’s signature saying it was relevant to a case. This meant there was no legal process, no Judge’s or legal oversight.

What made the NSL even more fighting was that it came with a built-in gag order, making it illegal to even state you had been issued one to disclose information. Citing the first amendment the federal Judge in a case of a small ISP being requested information from an NSL, as shown in the court document here, show that the list is quite extensive.

Your name and “related subscriber information”, account number, addresses and phone numbers, screen names and billing information, even your IP’s and “any other information which you consider to be electronic communication transactional record”. While some of these may seem completely irrelevant it even includes to things ordered or shipped relating to the account.

Nicholas Merill, the president of Calyx Internet Access in New York back in 2004, has been fighting the gag order contained within the NSL for 11 years in an attempt to reveal the information the FBI was seeking.

The gag orders have since been lessened, as stated by the Director of National Intelligence, the gag orders will be terminated after three years unless a special agent and case agent can determine and provide in writing why the gag order is required for an extended period.

It’s scary just how much information they could legally obtain, without any legal restrictions or oversight.

ISPs Claim UK Snooper’s Charter Could Push Up Broadband Prices

Internet Service Providers in the UK have warned that they will need to put up their broadband charges should Home Secretary Theresa May (pictured) MP’s Investigatory Powers Bill, nicknamed the Snooper’s Charter, pass into law. Representatives of ISPs told the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee that money allotted by the government, £175 million, to support the storage of every customer’s data for 12 months, and the requisite security required to protect that data, is nowhere near enough.

“A typical 1 gigabit connection to someone’s home, over 50 terabytes of data per year [are] passing over it,“ Matthew Hare, the chief executive of ISP Gigaclear, told MPs. “If you say that a proportion of that is going to be the communications data—the record of who you communicate with, when you communicate or what you communicate—there would be the most massive and enormous amount of data that in future an access provider would be expected to keep. The indiscriminate collection of mass data across effectively every user of the Internet in this country is going to have a massive cost.”

Hare also dismissed the notion that tracking metadata is a simple task, since multiple internet services – internet browser, Steam, Skype, and even anti-virus software or operating system updates – often operate simultaneously, which results in data packets becoming mixed.

“All those applications are running simultaneously,” Hare said. “They are different applications using different servers with different services and different protocols. They are all running concurrently on that one machine.”

“There would be a huge amount of very sensitive personal data that could be used by bad guys,” John Shaw, Vice President of Product Management for Sophos, added. “The TalkTalk example is an unfortunate recent one that demonstrates that it is very hard for companies to protect everywhere the kind of data they keep about people, and this would be a requirement to keep a huge amount of further data.”

Shaw also feared that sales in software would decline should it become public knowledge that it contained government-mandated backdoors, telling the committee, “If I was a software business […] I would be very worried that my customers would not buy my software any more if it had anything to do with security at all. I would be worried that a backdoor was built into the software by the [Investigatory Powers] Bill that would allow the UK government to find out what information was on that system at any point they wanted in the future.”

Would you be happy paying more for your internet connection so that you could be spied on?

Image courtesy of The Guardian.

Comcast Internal Memos Admit Data Caps Don’t Improve Network Performance

In a not so surprising twist, it looks like the reason consumers have been sold on data caps in the past has all been lies. According to leaked Comcast documents, customer service representatives are not to tell customers that the data cap program is for congestion management. Instead, the data caps are meant to ensure fairness and creating a flexible policy.

Do say: “Fairness and providing a more flexible policy to our customers.”

Don’t say: “The program is about congestion management.” (It is not.)

Just a few months ago, Comcast made the news when a VP noted that the data caps had nothing to do with the engineering side of things. Instead, they are a purely business decision and do nothing to help with network congestion. It looks like Comcast is finally starting to admit that data caps aren’t really needed. Of course, it’s unlikely that Comcast will ever admit that the caps are only to make them more profit. Instead, they’re spinning data caps as a way to ensure there is fairness in the system.

Given that there currently are not data caps in most areas, it’s hard to see how data caps can be seen as promoting fairness. Under the new data cap policy, unlimited internet now costs an extra $30-35, pretty much making data caps a price increase. Given that data caps don’t help congestion, the so-called fairness of making heavy users pay more is moot since the current infrastructure can already handle the traffic, meaning there is no need for customers to help fund network expansion. Given the poor state of internet competition in the US though, customers won’t have any recourse.

TalkTalk Could be Put Out of Business by Compensation Claims

UK ISP TalkTalk could potentially be put out of business by compensation claims following the recent hack that compromised unencrypted user data. While TalkTalk admitted that it was a victim to a cyberattack last Thursday (22nd October), and has since claimed that it was not as serious as first feared, there is evidence to suggest that the company not only knew about the hack a week before revealing it and tried to cover it up, but that customers had received fraudulent phonecalls from parties that knew personal information as early as 16th October.

According to the Daily Star, city lawyers are drawing up compensation claims on behalf of thousands of customers, to the tune of around £1,000 each, which could cost TalkTalk up to £75 million, with further cases sure to follow.

“This is the Great Train Robbery of the 21st Century.,” Former Met Police detective and private security adviser Adrian Culley said. “There is a potentially huge liability for TalkTalk. Compensation payments could put them out of business.”

Meanwhile, TalkTalk CEO Dido Harding has claimed that it was not “legally required” to encrypt user data. Talking to The Sunday Times (paywalled content via Ars Technica), Harding said, “[Our data] wasn’t encrypted, nor are you legally required to encrypt it. We have complied with all of our legal obligations in terms of storing of financial information.” Giving your customers the finger isn’t illegal, either, but both demonstrate contempt for consumers, as does “leaving the backdoor open” for hackers to exploit.

Image courtesy of The Drum.

TalkTalk Allegedly Knew About Hack a Week Ago and Tried to Cover It Up

While TalkTalk publicly admitted on Thursday night (22nd Octoboer) to its servers being hacked – “a significant and sustained cyberattack,” in its own words – the UK internet service provider is accused of knowing about the hack for up to a week before revealing it, and of trying to cover it up.

According to reports in The Telegraph, TalkTalk customers experienced attacks on their home computers and phonecalls from scammers who knew their names and account detail the week before the company made an official statement regarding the hack.

“Someone rang up on Monday claiming to be from TalkTalk and they had all my account details,” Mr Walter, a Senior Analytics Director for Moodys and TalkTalk customer, told The Telegraph. “My partner gave them remote access to our laptop before realising it was a scam, and pulling the plug. But a virus had already been put on the computer and it’s going to cost time and money to sort out. I think TalkTalk’s actions have shown extremely poor regard for their customers, and a failure to encrypt the data was sloppy in the extreme.”

“I have received two phone calls – one last Friday, the 16th, and then again this Tuesday,” another customer, Jeremy Cotgrove, revealed. “Both sounded dodgy, a delay on the line and someone speaking very poor English. I just put the phone down as it did not sound kosher.”

Keith Vaz, the Labour Member of Parliament for Leicester East and Chairman of the Home Affair Select Committee, said that there was emerging evidence to support the assertion that TalkTalk had tried to hide the scale of the crime. “Suggestions that TalkTalk has covered up both the scale and duration of this attack are alarming and unacceptable and must be thoroughly investigated,” Vaz added.

The attackers, who used a simple SQL Injection to access the servers – described as the equivalent of TalkTalk “leaving the backdoor open” – have purportedly sent a ransom e-mail to CEO Baroness Harding of Winscombe, the Conservative Peer professionally known as Dido Harding, who also admitted that some sensitive user data had not been encrpyted.

Image courtesy of The Drum.

European ISPs Aren’t Delivering on Advertised Download Speeds

European internet service providers have been caught exaggerating the typical download speeds for end-users according to a study released by the European Commission. The report says:

“The difference between advertised and actual broadband speed in Europe remains the same: in October 2014 consumers received 76% of the advertised speed (the same as a year ago). Differences were smaller in cable (86.5%) and FTTx (83%) than in DSL (63.3%). Advertised and actual speeds have increased since 2013.”

Interestingly, USA service providers were much more honest about the advertised speeds but in general, faster internet incurs a higher price compared to Europeans. As bandwidth demands increase due to 4K video streaming, and detailed games, ISPs have to offer a better quality of service. In the UK, Virgin Media and BT are investing to produce the fastest mainstream lines. At the moment, Virgin’s premium 200Mb package destroys anything currently offered by BT. Although, this could change in the near future.

Many internet service providers engage in network traffic management and often reduce download speeds during peak hours. Additionally, the connection can be throttled when exceeding a certain amount of data in a 24-hour period. Ironically, the term unlimited is usually extremely limited and bound by a number of restrictions.

Who is your current ISP?

TalkTalk “Left the Door Unlocked” For Hackers

On Thursday night, UK ISP TalkTalk fell victim to a massive hack on its servers, during which unencrypted user data, including credit and debit card details, may have been stolen. TalkTalk CEO and Dido Harding – or Baroness Harding of Winscombe as she’s known in her role as Conservative Peer and Non-Executive Director of the Bank of England – has confirmed that parties claiming to be responsible for the hack have attempted to blackmail the company, bemoaning the emergence of “cyber-criminals” to the BBC yesterday.

It seems, though, that TalkTalk needs to take its share of responsibility for the hack, since the technique used was rudimentary and more than 15 years old. According to developer Tim Almond, the hackers used an SQL injection to compromise TalkTalk’s servers, the application of which is “like leaving a door unlocked in an office building” on the part of the ISP.

“It was using a technique called a SQL Injection attack,” Almond says. “Without going into detail of how it works, this is a very well-known and in computing years, a very old attack. I first had it explained to me in the early part of the 2000s.”

To make it clear that TalkTalk was negligent in not protecting against such an attack (let alone not encrypting user data), Almond says, “Many people wouldn’t even think of trying it because they wouldn’t expect a large website to miss it,” adding, “if you have good security policies, SQL Injection attacks shouldn’t be a problem.”

TalkTalk CEO Recieved Ransom E-Mail Following Hack

Following last night’s cyber-attack on UK internet service provider TalkTalk, the company’s Chief Executive has revealed that she personally received a ransom e-mail, purportedly from the parties responsible.  CEO Dido Harding admits that she does not know if the e-mail is genuine, but it has been passed on to police and will form part of the investigation into the perpetrators.

“It is hard for me to give you very much detail, but yes, we have been contacted by, I don’t know whether it is an individual or a group, purporting to be the hacker,” Harding told the BBC. When asked if the ransomers wanted paying, she responded, “It is a live criminal investigation […] All I can say is that I had personally received a contact from someone purporting – as I say I don’t know whether they are or are not – to be the hacker looking for money.”

“I’m very sorry for all the frustration, worry and concern this will inevitably be causing all of our customers,” Harding added.

Adrian Culley, former Scotland Yard detective turned Cyber security consultant, told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 that a Russian Islamist group had taken responsibility for the attack.

In a statement, TalkTalk admitted that not all of the user data it stores had been encrypted, and could include:

  • Names and addresses
  • Dates of birth
  • Email addresses
  • Telephone numbers
  • TalkTalk account information
  • Credit card and bank details

Are you a TalkTalk customer? Are you concerned about your details failing into the wrong hands? And are you considering changing your ISP in the wake of this hack?

Image courtesy of TalkTalk

TalkTalk Website Struck by Cyber-Attack

The Metropolitan Police Cyber Crime unit has launched an investigation after the major UK internet and phone provider was hit by a “significant and sustained cyberattack” on Wednesday. At the current time, it is unclear as to the full extent of the attack, however, TalkTalk has released a guide with more information on the attack and advise their customers to be aware that some data may have been leaked. Alarmingly among this list are credit card and bank details, which when correlated with other potentially leaked account details such as names and email addresses could expose many of TalkTalk’s 4 million strong customer base to unauthorized access to finances and other identity fraud.

This isn’t the first time this year that TalkTalk has been affected cyber attacks that resulted in theft of customer data, when its associated firm Carphone Warehouse was the target of an attack that resulted in close to half a million TalkTalk Mobile customers being affected.

All of this is bad news for TalkTalk, which is already struggling with poor customer satisfaction, its Broadband division scoring only 48% in Which? magazines latest customer satisfaction survey. And while TalkTalk now assure customers their site is once again secure, the recurring leaks of data by the company are sure to hurt trust with their customers.

Are you a TalkTalk customer who has been affected by these attacks and are you concerned about the security of your details with the company in future? Let us know in the comments below and remember to check out Talk Talk’s advice on the incident.

WikiLeaks Reveals ISPs to Disclose Copyright Infringer Details Under TPP

WikiLeaks has been revealing details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership since the deal was agreed (but not signed) by Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Brunei, and Chile last week after years of negotiation, and the latest documents show that internet service providers in participating countries will be forced to hand over the details of any user thought to be infringing upon copyrighted materials.

The leaked document (which can be found on the WikiLeaks website), while representing a draft with the final wording yet to be agreed, purports to be the “final” version of the intellectual property chapter.

“This is the highly sort-after [sic] secret ‘final’ agreed version of the TPP chapter on intellectual property rights,” the document released by WikiLeaks reads. “There is still a finishing ‘legal scrub’ of the document meant to occur, but there are to be no more negotiations between the parties … The document is dated October 5, the same day it was announced in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, that the 12 nations had managed to reach an accord after five and half years of negotiations.”

Under the agreement, ISPs will be subject to “legal incentives” to encourage them to block copyright infringing materials and assist the copyright owners in preventing the transmission of storage of such materials. ISPs are considered liable for its users; therefore, if one of its users is found infringing copyrighted material, the ISP is considered responsible, presumably to force it into shopping its users rather than take the rap for piracy. Copyright holders can submit a list of infringing IP addresses to ISPs and expect to receive details of the offending users in return.

TPP is still being ratified by its 12 member countries prior to signing. Organisations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation are still fighting against TPP, specifically the Intellectual Property Chapter.

Thank you ZDNet for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Alochonaa.

Virgin Media Upgrading Broadband Speeds For Free

Virgin Media has announced a substantial speed upgrade for existing customers across various package tiers. Those on 50Mbps, 100Mbps or 152Mbps will receive a speed boost to 70Mbps, 150Mbps and 200Mbps, respectively. The initial roll-out will begin on October 1st but it could take until the year end to reach the majority of customers. According to Virgin Media, 90% of its users should have received the upgrade by the end of 2015. Gregor McNeil, managing director of consumer at Virgin Media explained:

“Our message is simple: if you want to be certain that you are signing up to true ultrafast broadband speeds of 100Mbps and above, Vivid from Virgin Media is the new standard,” 

“The speed of a customer’s broadband connection matters; when you have more you can do more.”

Currently, Virgin Media has no plans to increase the monthly fee for any of its broadband services. This applies a great deal of pressure on BT as their top package is a mere 76Mbps. Of course, BT is working on its infrastructure to improve things, but Virgin Media’s top package is more than double that of its leading competitor. Therefore, BT has a lot of catching up to do.

Image courtesy of Simply-Communicate.com

Thank you V3 for providing us with this information.

Germany Promises 50Mbps Broadband

With a wide majority of the world using internet on a regular, if not every day, basis, we need to be aware of just how much we use the internet for. While most activities are mundane and almost ritualistic in how we do them each day. There are some which we take a lot of time to do, and can even be in their work life every day. With more and more people relying on the internet for everyday work related activities speed is essential (yes, we understand that you want that YouTube video to buffer a little faster too). Germany has decided that it will take the first step and states that it will promise all users 50Mbps broadband across the entire country.

The current highest download speed (on average) is South Korea with 23.6Mbps, with the average speed in the US only measuring at 11.9Mbps. With initial estimates putting 70% of Germany already connected to 50Mbps connections, the cost of upgrading everyone to this speed is expected to be rather small. It should be noted though that their current average speed is only 11Mbps, a value only slightly lower than the US’s and under half of the current world’s leaders average.

With the public being asked to provide 10% of the cost, with 90% being provided by a combination of German states (40%) and development projects (50%), users could soon see their internet speed jumping.

Thank you The Next Web for the information.

Image courtesy of Gecko And Fly.

Comcast VP Claims Data Caps are Business Policy & Not Technical Necessity

Many of you with home internet plans may have to deal with monthly data caps. For some this cap can be a real pain as a full household streaming and consuming content can easily rack up the gigabytes. While ISPs claim many different reasons to justify their caps, one common excuse is that the heavier users should pay more if the network infrastructure is not capable of handling the constant load.

Major US ISP Comcast  recently started rolling out a 300GB “data cap” in certain regions. While the company is loath to call it a cap since customers can go over it, the heavy overage charges essentially make it a cap. When questioned about the low cap, VP of internet services Jason Livingood tweeted that-

No idea—I’m involved on the engineering side to manage the measurement systems but don’t weigh in on the business policies”.

Implicit in that statement is that the data caps are managed as a business policy and that there is no real engineering or technical need for data caps. This makes a lot of sense as data caps do not help manage network usage at any point in time, rather, they only control the total usage over a month. Congestion however, happens on a very small time scale, meaning time-based limits would make much more sense, with users moving their more bandwidth heavy but not urgent usage to off-peak times.

This statement from Livingood pretty much confirms that Comcast, and probably many other ISPs, only have data caps in place so they can charge customer overage fees. Given the ever increasing bandwidth demands and the relatively low caps, ISPs can pretty much reap in the extra cash without having to really do anything. Why do you think data caps exist?

Anti-Blocking Website More Popular Than Spotify and Skype in the UK

While the UK High Court has been making busywork of blocking access to a myriad of popular torrent sites via the country’s ISPs, users apathetic to the restrictions have been using the sites anyway via the popular proxy site Unblocked.pw. Torrent fans have flocked to the site, using it to circumvent the token efforts of the UK justice establishment to control internet piracy, so much so that Unblocked.pw has become the 192nd most popular site in the country, placing it ahead of Spotify and Skype.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron loves a good block. Only this week, he was threatening to ban internet porn, because “Won’t somebody please think of the children?”. He said:

“Our one nation government is working hard to make the internet a safer place for children, the next step in this campaign is to curb access to harmful pornographic content which is currently far too widely available. I want to see age restrictions put into place or these websites will face being shut down.”

What is a “one nation government,” anyway? How is that any different from a regular government? Or, is Cameron slyly telling Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland that they don’t really count? In any case, the threat to take away the country’s porn is a deep cut, considering Pornhub, XHamster, Xvideos, and RedTube all feature within the top-100 sites in the UK, with TubeCup and YouPorn close behind:

  • Pornhub (#41)
  • XHamster (#44)
  • Xvideos (#47)
  • RedTube (#92)
  • TubeCup (#105)
  • YouPorn (#122)

At No. 44, PornHub is more popular than Netflix, even. But it was the position of Unblocked.pw that was most surprising, positioned at #192. The site, which is less than a year old, is already more popular than popular IM service Skype (#195) and music streaming site Spotify (#194).

Fighting censorship has been the primary motivation behind running Unblocked,” the site’s admin told TorrentFreak. “It’s to show that whatever regulators do to censor things online, there will always be a way around it. The initial motivation came from when The Pirate Bay was blocked in the Netherlands. We set up Proxybay.co to maintain a list of Pirate Bay proxy sites and show people how to create their own.”

If porn sites were to go the same way as torrent sites, expect to see the saucy equivalent of Unblocked.pw hit the top-200 sites in the UK soon after.

Thank you TorrentFreak for providing us with this information.

EA and Comcast Team up to Bring New Streaming Service

There are a lot of streaming services that bring games to players on their TV. We all know the popular NVIDIA Grid and the company’s constant attempt to make it more popular. Microsoft and Sony are attempting to bring such services to their consoles too, but they still have a long way to get people interested in the latter.

Now Electronic Arts and Comcast made a partnership to bring cloud gaming to your TVs too. All you need is an Xfinity X1 box from Comcast. The really interesting thing here is that the companies are not relying on controllers, but rather encourage people to use their smartphones and tables as their own personal controllers. All they need is an app called Xfinity Games and then navigate to a website on their handsets, enter a code and you’re done. The controls are made out of swiping and tapping gestures.

But are handsets really good controllers? Well, tests proved they are not! The companies found out that it was extremely difficult to control and navigate the Dead Space title, but found out that the handsets are best at controlling cars, so they went on and added the Real Racing to the list of games. They say that this would be the future of online gaming, but is it really true? There are more things to take into account here.

One of the main issues with online stuff is the user’s internet speed. Ok, you get some games that can be controlled remotely, but you still have to think that despite your efforts of delivering and receiving input and game feedback, ISPs around the world are still struggling to deliver actual speeds to have their customers load up a page, yet alone play a fully fledged game remotely. The second one that is applicable here is the controller. You can get some feedback by the handset’s ability to vibrate, but are most games ready for using virtual buttons? I would like to see how someone would play a fast-paced FPS or even RTS titles controlled via a smartphone or tablet.

Nevertheless, there are around 20 titles available for Comcast customers to try out, including NBA, PGA, and Plats vs Zombies. The list is said to be constantly changing based on user feedback and the companies are even thinking of adding third-party titles to the list in the near future.

Thank you Cnet for providing us with this information

UK Privacy and Apps Under Threat

Let me just jump on my soapbox for a minute with regards to this subject, according to reports, the newly elected Conservative Government wants to again reintroduce the Snoopers Charter, sorry, I mean the new fangled “Investigatory Powers Bill” which if enacted would allow the government and security services for example M15 access to everyone’s communications.

To add insult to injury the plans would also make end to end encrypted apps for example Snapchat and WhatsApp technically illegal, unless a backdoor is installed or communications are handed over. All in the name of terrorism and extremists, now I am not being flippant and I am aware that groups such as IS exist, but I do not believe everyone’s communications should be spied upon.

This bill if passed would also require all ISP (Internet Service Providers) to retain all information on every citizens browsing habits, sites which are looked at and information which is sent, with the aim of making this information available to the security services.

So what do the tech experts believe? They have stated that these laws are draconian, anti free speech and would put the whole Internet at risk from hackers. Who would be able to crack any backdoor laid before them by the powers that be. Opposition includes Tim Cook who is the boss of Apple who said citizens should be entitled to a private life; academics from MIT and the UK have both dismissed these proposals as a disaster.

So what can we do about it? The only thing as citizens we can do, make our voices heard, I believe there should be a limit to what governments can collect, innocent people should not be spied upon in their own homes, I do think we need to track for example suspected terrorists movements, but I think in order to be under surveillance, you need evidence and a court of law to approve this, not simply cart blanch can we have your data and monitor everyone.

The mantra for governments is quite clear, “let us spy on you or you can only use certain communication tools approved by the state”. I think it would be impossible to ravage the internet of encryption, but I do think this bill is designed and will be able to collect more information on everyone.

I have started a petition on this over at change.org if you are interested in checking It out, link is below, will it work?  Hell I will be damned if I am going to lie down quietly and let the state turn into a whole new animal which polices everyone, which notion is brought to you by the good folks in China, North Korea and Russia among many.

Petition at Change.org

Thanks to BBC News, Huffington post  (who plan to encrypt their website further) and Facebook trends

Image Courtesy of automation

 

 

Ofcom is Standing up for Slow Broadband Users

The UK is a relatively small place when compared to the likes of Russia, USA and China. This is evident when you consider that 77% of UK adults have broadband installed in their homes in the UK compared to a comparatively small 70% in the USA.

So with such a small ground coverage, the UK Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are all covering the same areas, offering some places super-fast broadband, while others in more rural areas are getting stuck with slower internet speeds.

Up until now, if you signed up for 19 – 30Mb, but only received 17Mb; you could complain to your ISP and hope they will either increase your speed, reduce your bill or terminate your contract. Today is a turning point where Ofcom, UK communications regulator, has announced that if you are not receiving the paid speeds; you can cancel your contract, even mid-term. This will govern all of the major providers such as BT, Sky, EE, TalkTalk, etc…however, Virgin Media is excluded as this new plan only covers copper and Fibre based broadband up to 80Mbps.

Along with this, Ofcom also plans to make it easier for customers to switch provider. Starting from June 20th, it will put more power in the hands of the ISP you plan to change to, rather than from. If you are using a traditional BT phone line, you can simply jump between the major providers using Ofcom’s new “one touch” process. It plans on offering the same for mobile contracts, but that will come to light next month.

Thank you engadget for providing us with this information.

Ebook Piracy Sites to Be Blocked by UK ISPs

Yesterday, the UK’s High Court ordered that websites carrying pirated ebooks should be blocked by the country’s internet service providers. The court ruled that an application made by The Publishers Association grants that the sites be blocked under Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988). Within the next 10 days, BT, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk, and EE will be legally obliged to block any and all sites deemed to be carrying copyrighted reading materials.

Richard Mollet, Chief Executive of The Publishers Association, said of the victory:

“A third of publisher revenues now come from digital sales but unfortunately this rise in the digital market has brought with it a growth in online infringement. Our members need to be able to protect their authors’ works from such illegal activity; writers need to be paid and publishers need to be able to continue to innovate and invest in new talent and material.

“We are very pleased that the High Court has granted this order and, in doing so, recognises the damage being inflicted on UK publishers and authors by these infringing websites.”

Much like the MPAA, it seems that The Publishers Association hasn’t heard of proxies or VPNs, and I would not be surprised to discover that the cost of this legal action was more than any offset loss of sales through piracy by publishers.

Thank you The Publishers Association for providing us with this information.