Tag: isps

Battle for home gateways start

PortcullisWith the whole world and its dog predicting massive growth in the internet of things (IoT) both in the commercial and domestic markets, it appears a number of vendors are jockeying for position to become the providers of home gateways.

There is a lot of potential for the IoT at home, said Paul O’Donovan, a principle research analyst at Gartner.

Applications include smart cookers, smart washing machines, smart dryers, smart lighting, thermostats, entertainment devices and more.

O’Donovan said: “Many IoT applications are triggered by sensors and need data management, but there is no single IoT gateway to the home. As internet connected homes become increasingly smarter, the gateway is becoming the “centre” for connecting different devices and home appliances.”

He estimates that the number of smart connected homes will grow from an estimate 100 to 200 million now, to between 500 million and 700 million homes by 2020.

Vendors trying to grab the key to the IoT front door range from cable companies, internet companies, alarm companies and mobile phone operating system providers.

O’Donovan thinks ISPs are likely to be the early winners.

Pirate Party UK: content industry wants a "music NSA"

The Pirate Party UK’s leader, Loz Kaye, has hit back at the British content industry pressuring top ISPs to introduce a database of suspected pirates for copyright breaches.

Speaking with TechEye, Kaye said the industry “seems intent on turning ISPs into the music NSA”.

Over the weekend, the Guardian revealed how BT, Virgin Media, BSkyB and Talk Talk are all being told to adhere to build a database of customers who illegally download content – with the purpose of proescuting persistent offenders at a later date.

The oft criticised Digital Economy Act – drafted to make fighting piracy easier for the content industry – was voted into law in 2010, but delays have meant it may not become active policy until after the 2015 general election. This has frustrated Britain’s content industry, represented by the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI), which wants action soon.

It is expected that a database would be used to send letters to repeat offenders – at first. But it could later be used to target broadband customers by blocking them from using particular sites, temporarily disconnecting them, throttling web connections, or prosecution.

Prime minister David Cameron will sit down with the BPI, the industry group believed to be the driving force behind the measures, in mid-September. Piracy is expected to be a key area of discussion.

ISPs appear resistant to such blanket measures at the moment – with a Virgin Media spokesperson telling the Guardian that the current proposals are “unworkable”, while TalkTalk said customers’ rights “always come first” and would “never agree to anything that could compromise them”.

They would likely be met with criticism from the public in light of recent privacy awareness campaigns from activists. A voluntary code would also leave room for smaller ISPs to capitalise – as Andrew & Arnolds did after David Cameron announced his now infamous pornography filter.

The Pirate Party UK’s Loz Kaye suggested the proposals are in line with David Cameron’s current policy approach to internet censorship and urged the Coalition government for “clarity”.

“The content industry seems intent on turning Internet Service Providers in to the music NSA,” Kaye said. “Having failed with the democratic and legal route as the Digital Economy Act is a lame duck, they now want to skip that and get ISPs to do the policing on their own. “This will be an unwarranted intrusion, with no clear positive outcome.

“The BPI apparently wants to take advantage of Cameron’s current wish to blame the internet for everything,” Kaye said. “The government’s digital policy making is in chaos. We need clarity from the coalition – do they back site blocking or not?”

“Do they back throwing entire households off the Internet or not? Until there are some answers, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats can have no credibility on digital policy,” Kaye said.

Virgin rebuffs adult content opt-in claims

A spokesperson for Virgin Media has said reports it plans to block, by default, any legal adult content are inaccurate, and that a Sunday Times article that says so is “fundamentally wrong”.

The Sun published a report that says BT, Virgin, Arquiva and Nomad had signed up to an opt-in agreement to access adult content by 2014. “Eight million households currently using Virgin Media and TalkTalk’s internet services will have to opt in to receive explicit material by 2014,” it read.

But a spokesperson for Virgin said: “Last year, all ISPs committed to a code of practice whereby all customers, new, and soon existing, would have to choose whether to use the parental controls we provide”.

“It’s not default blocking and no customer will not know parental controls have or have not been activated,” the spokesperson said, adding that Virgin Media confirmed it would be introducing a ‘whole home’ package later this year to work across all devices.

How effective even an opt-in for adult content option would be is up for debate.

A cursory Google search reveals streams of Yahoo Answers pages from kids trying to get around parental restrictions. When there’s a will, there tends to be a way, especially when young people are often streets ahead of their parents in being tech-savvy. 

ISPs and telcos have to admit data stuff-ups

The EU has brought in new regulations that force ISPs and telcos serving European customers to confess any security or data breach within 24 hours of the event happening.

According to an EU statement, any telecom operators or ISPs operating in Europe who suffer from a data breach that leads to loss of personal data or theft of such data is compromised in any way will have to notify national data protection authorities within 24 hours.

Telcos or ISPs will have to reveal the nature and size of the breach within the first 24 hours. If they can’t provide that information straight away they must give “initial information” and provide all the details within three days.

They will have to tell the world+dog what information has been compromised and the steps they plan to take to fix it.

It seems that the companies will not have to make a public statement unless the breach “is likely to adversely affect” personal information or privacy. Then it has to take steps to warn affected businesses and consumers.

This appears pretty much like the status quo in the EU. Rules like this have existed since 2011.

However, these new regulations are more specific about the timeframes within which such incidents have to be reported. The new regulations require companies to pay specific attention to the type of data compromised.

There are still get out of jail free cards. ISPs and telcos will not be required to pass on the data in cases where there are “justified national security reasons”. If data is encrypted the companies will not have to tell anyone.


Legit Pirate Bay spin-off blocked by UK ISPs

A legitimate operation of notorious torrent portal The Pirate Bay, The Promo Bay, is being blocked by ISPs in the United Kingdom because of the high court order that saw a blanket ban on the website earlier this year.

Although another URL is available for access, the outright censorship of a domain is going someway to highlight how the net could be considered too wide, and how a policy of forcing websites content lobbyists do not like to go dark is essentially flawed.

As TorrentFreak reports, The Promo Bay has never linked to infringing material, and is not hosted on The Pirate Bay’s servers either. Banned by BT, Virgin Media, BE, and possiby others, TorrentFreak suggests the domain was found on the same black list that has been used to cut away The Pirate Bay from the web.

The website allows users to search through torrents of artists the Pirate Bay is promoting, with its permission. It can also be accessed at ThePromoBay.co.uk, but then again, because of the slow moving nature of the courts, as soon as The Pirate Bay was blocked, public proxies cropped up that made the content fully accessible again.

The result is The Pirate Bay is still open for business, although British users are unable to access it through its original domain. Blocked with it is a legitimate operation that users are also forced to sidestep around to reach its perfectly legal content.

Many of the ISPs were not happy with the courts ordering censorship in the first place, and although they will not be quick to be outspoken, it would be surprising if they didn’t accept the topsy-turvy nature of the situation. Unlike content industry lobbyists and reactionary legislature that follows, organisations that rely on intimate knowledge of the working web also understand that lowering the boot on one offending website merely fragments the users: they will go elsewhere or – in under a minute of using a search engine – can figure out a way past the ban through VPNs or other options. It is not difficult.

ThinkBroadband.com’s editor, Andrew Ferguson, told TechEye that, if not a mistake, the block could be because the Promo Bay appears to be more of a promotional tool for the Pirate Bay, rather than the artists themselves. Again, it’s probable that it was snagged on a list of domains the ISPs are told to ban access to.

“The whole area of web blocking, be it in response to court orders, or parental controls, is an area where it is impossible to be 100 percent accurate,” Ferguson told us. “If the ISPs are reacting to informal requests to block extra domains that is very worrying, as the chances of this being abused is very real. Conversely, there is a possibility that other interests, that do not support reasonable blocking solutions, may be using knowledge about what will probably be blocked to push their own agenda”.

“As always,” Ferguson said, “the way to reduce the effect of file sharing is for rights holders, which is often not the artist, to ensure material is available at a reasonable price and in formats that people want to use”.

Nick Pickles, director of civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, told TechEye that blocking websites is a “crude and ineffective tool”, and that this example highlights the risks to freedom of speech online.

“Those calling for more blocking and filtering should be aware that legal businesses and individuals are highly likely to be caught in the collateral damage of such policies,” Pickles said.

“It also highlights how ineffective most ISPs are at dealing with over-blocking, and I expect sooner rather than later we will see a court case seeking damages for unwarranted blocking,” he said.

Pirate Bay enjoys Streisand effect

BT is the latest British ISP to ban The Pirate Bay.

It was forced to do so by a court order and the straight URL now simply brings up an error message that reads: “Error – site blocked”. BT went the extra mile by blocking additional IP addresses issued by the Pirate Bay to get around the ban.

According to Torrent Freak, though, the Pirate Bay issued its own alternative IP addresses almost immediately, circumventing BT’s ban just minutes after it went into action. As Torrent Freak points out, proxy sites have already cropped up which dodge many of the various ISP’s censorship attempts, with the UK’s Pirate Party hosting its own mirror – becoming one of the top 600 most visited web pages in the country.

So far, the Courts’ decision to ban the Pirate Bay seems to be its best marketing tool. This is called the Streisand effect, described by Wikipedia as “a primarily online phenomenon in which an attempt to hide or remove a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicising the information more widely”.

The content industry’s pursuit against file sharing is turning into a game of arthritic, ancient cat versus an army of mice. On rollerskates. Rocket powered ones.

People who want to pirate content are still able to do so. The Pirate Bay is far from the only way to share files on the internet, and, besides, it is still accessible to most people who are able to perform a web search. Leaning on Google to heavily censor its results – as the content industry has done – will drive users to unfiltered search services.

Clamping down on the Pirate Bay will be too little too late, and it brings to mind the heroic chest-beating and backpatting the industry gave itself when it finally shut down the totally irrelevant Limewire. The pirates, it seems, are the innovators.

Pirate Bay graciously welcomes RIAA search censorship plans

The Pirate Bay has graciously welcomed the RIAA’s recommendation that search engines ban sites such as theirs. It has said that instead of turning people off, it may attract more traffic.

The scoffing comes as RIAA CEO Cary Sherman told US Congress that more needed to be done to stop online piracy.

According to TorrentFreak, the CEO took to the stage at the Future of Audio hearing where he recommended that search engines such as Google took responsibility in cutting down online piracy, by censoring sites such as the Pirate Bay and IsoHunt, and prioritising legitimate music services.

The Pirate Bay, which is usually against censorship, released this statement in a blog post: “Our competitors at the Recording Industry Assholes of America is trying to make sure that the search engines that compete with us have to stop linking back to us. This is really great news!”

It went on to point out that currently around 10 percent of its traffic came from competing search engines.

“With that ban in place that means that our traffic numbers probably will increase. Users will go directly to us instead and use our search instead,” it said.

“We’ll grow even more massive. It’s really hard to compete with Google, but if they can’t index media search engines like us, we’ll be the dominant player in the end.

“So from the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU RIAA, this is great news for us! For once, we support your efforts in something! Let’s make sure that TPB keeps on growing together!

“Hugs’n’kisses from your pals at The Pirate Bay – soon to be the biggest media search engine in the world!”

The blog post was met with comments like: “Did the RIAA just put up a new, FREE Pirate Bay advertisement?” and “I love the MPAA. Thanks for helping my favourite site”.

Users in the UK might be out of luck, however, depending on their ISP. Some are already adhering to orders from the UK courts to block direct access to the site.

Virgin Media was the first. Its users are now met with a page that says: “Virgin Media has received an order from the Courts requiring us to prevent access to this site in order to help protect against copyright infringement.”

Be Broadband, an O2 subsidiary, has reportedly blocked the site, but a colleague was still able to access it at the time of publication.

Like other large providers, Be said it would be bowing down to pressure from the courts and complying with the demand to shut out Pirate Bay users.

It said that its hands were tied and it “had no choice but to prevent its customers from accessing certain websites”.

Of course, despite the content industry’s best efforts, mirror services and proxies are widely available and easy enough to find. The Pirate Bay seems to be Big Content’s Most Wanted, but much of the internet is aware of alternatives anyway.

British government draws up Big Brother style communications law

It was only a matter of time before the British government would play the terrorism card in a bid to spy on its citizens.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the UK government is drawing up new plans which will force landline, mobile phone companies and broadband providers to store data for a year and make it available to any spook who asks for it.

The required databases will not record calls, texts or emails, and will just store the numbers or email addresses which are being sent, it is claimed.

It will mean that the spooks will have widespread access to information about who has been communicating with each other on social networking sites such as Facebook.

Any messages between subscribers to websites such as Twitter would also be stored, as well as communications between players in online video games.

The plan is the work of extensive negotiations between the Home Office and ISPs and could be officially announced as early as May.

The government is allegedly expecting civil liberties groups to go mad when the bill is announced. It will have a cunning plan to say something like: “if you are not in support of the new law, you love terrorists and paedophiles.” This strategy is being tried by the Canadian government and is probably seen by the Coalition government as a winner.

There are also some fears that the data stores will become targets for hackers who want to use the personal information in phishing or spamming.

The Telegraph said that the plan has been drawn up on the advice of MI5, MI6, and GCHQ. Rather than the government holding the information centrally, companies including BT, Sky, Virgin Media, Vodafone and O2 would have to keep the records themselves. This would be accessed real time by the spooks.

Mobile phone records of calls and text messages pinpoint within yards where a call was made or a message was sent, while emails and internet browsing histories can be matched to an IP address. The idea is it will remove the need for spooks to shadow those who they are investigating.

The irony of it all is that the scheme was drawn up by the Labour government called the Intercept Modernisation Programme. The only difference is that the Labour scheme would have created a central database of all the information. This was slammed by almost everyone and the government at the time pulled it.

At the time, the Conservatives slammed Labour’s “reckless” record on privacy.

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, a civil liberties campaign organisation, said that Conservatives and Liberal Democrats started their government with a pledge to roll back the surveillance state. But it seems that once they got into power, they saw the advantages of collecting everything about who we talk to – just in case something turns up. 

Ofcom report says rural Britain screwed by broadband speeds

Ofcom will tomorrow confirm that ISPs are lying to the public about the speeds they advertise and the speeds consumers actually get.

Additionally, there is an enormous disparity in Britain between speeds for rural areas and urban areas.

The report shows that rural areas, in general, manage just 3.3 Mbps compared to urban speeds of 8.8 Mbps.

Ofcom will reveal that while download speeds are not in line with advertised packages, upload speeds are closer to the mark. This is because, for the consumer in general, download traffic is the priority and a significantly smaller amount of people are falling over themselves to upload gigabytes of data.

The report will be an embarrassment for the Advertising Standards Authority, which serves as a battleground between companies complaining about each other’s misleading advertising.

It will also be a kick up the rear of the Coalition government, which has promised that the UK will be a world leader in broadband. Right now, it’s looking more like ISPs have free reign in fleecing the consumer.

Copyright holders clean up in Germany

German ISPs are handing over subscriber details to copyright holders at the rate of 300,000 a month, according to the country’s internet industry association ECO.

As a result, it says, while most of the world is seeing an increase in piracy, it’s dropped by a fifth in Germany since 2008. This is despite the fact that the number of legal downloads in the country has grown by 30 percent.

ECO‘s released the figures to challenge European Commission plans to adopt measures forcing ISPs to block file-sharing sites altogether.

“The increasing availability of digital content on the German market shows that one can combat internet piracy effectively without deep intervention in the basic rights of the population,” it says.

“Barrier methods such as those planned and advertised last week by the European Commission at the G8 Forum in Paris are unnecessary.”

German file-sharers receive letters from rights holders demanding anything up to $1,700 to avoid legal action – something which ECO believes is excessive.

“In most cases a warning letter would be enough,” says Oliver Süme, the organisation’s spokesman for copyright issues. “It does not always have to be a warning for several hundred euros.”

But, hey, it’s a nice little earner. Although the number of illegal downloads in Germany is declining, says Süme, the number of warning letters each year is increasing.