Broadband Providers Need to Educate, Allow Subscribers to Better Protect Their Systems

Wired has a story about broadband providers simply cutting off access to users whose systems become infected with Code Red or Nmida. Wired mentions that Speakeasy and DSL Inc. simply yank access to users whose systems are infected with such viruses/worms.

This is a big problem, but an even bigger problem is that most broadband providers a) do almost nothing to educate their users about the security problems associated with broadband service, and b) actually forbid users from using the best security methods to ward off infestations and attacks.

I’ve been through the process both with DSL and cable and neither provider even so much as hinted that I might want to think about any sort of software or hardware solution to prevent attacks on the computer(s) hooked up to my broadband connection. Both providers had information on firewall software buried deep in their web sites, but I assume they were afraid providing any security information might turn off potential customers.

Since I am very concerned about security, I run a small NAT router. The problem is that this is in direct violation of my agreement with the cable company which strictly forbids using any sort of router.

That restriction is added because they don’t want people using the cable access to run web, ftp, and game servers. The problem with servers is a legitimate concern — the first week the students cam back to the university here, my cable connection was almost nonexistent because the bandwidth was being used by students setting up bandwidth-munching servers.

But it’s stupid to simply ban routers because of this. Routers, after all, don’t make it difficult to find the people abusing the system. Talking with a tech support guy about the problem, he said they could identify neighborhood-sized areas where the traffic was thought he roof and then run port scans to determine who was violating the terms of service.

The ban on routers, then, simply makes the average home users system less secure, while really doing very little to fight the bandwidth hogs. Rather than fighting routers, broadband providers should be encouraging people to buy them as an important part of general network security.

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