Comcast’s XFINITY Wifi, the program designed to turn your Comcast router into a public hotspot for other Comcast subscribers has been taking a beating lately, as users are beginning to have questions about the system’s usefulness, security, and overall trust of Comcast.
Michael Horowitz, writing in ComputerWorld provides a very good and in-depth analysis of the issues surrounding Comcast. In the article, he lays out several issues:
- Does XFINITY WiFi slow down a customer’s connection? Comcast claims that it will not, although many people would disagree. There’s no definitive tests here, but an analysis of the system would indicate that Comcast is probably correct.
- Will visitors be able to access data on the customer’s network? Obviously, a huge problem if it were true. Comcast says that this is not possible, although all it takes is one small vulnerability for this to be an issue.
- Accountability – what if a visitor does something illegal? This is the one huge problem that we can’t ignore whenever we’re talking about any kind of open WiFi system. Comcast says that it’s a non-issue since a visitor must login and therefore can be traced, A more in-depth analysis of the system shows that this isn’t really true. This is really dangerous.
- Lack of technical documentation. There’s a whole list of things that should be important enough for Comcast to publicly disclose about their system that they simply don’t (e.g. is traffic over the air encrypted?)
- The system is susceptible to MAC address spoofing. It’s pretty easy for a bad guy to pull the necessary data from a visitor’s legitimate use of the system to impersonate him to the network. If this happens, any bad stuff that happens is blamed on the wrong person.
- It’s easy to impersonate the network. All of these systems have the same SSID, so it isn’t too hard to fool someone into using your rogue access point by making him think that he’s using a legitimate XFINITY WiFi system.
Horowitz’s conclusion – turn it off. It’s far too dangerous and contains too many unknowns.
Petition against XFINITY WiFi
If that’s not enough, Alex Gizis, CEO of Speedify has begun a Change.org petition against Comcast, claiming that the XFINITY WiFi system will cost consumers extra money in additional electricity consumed! Apparently, they measured the effects, and claim that the system will cost the average consumer an additional $22.80 per year to support something that simply benefits Comcast.
It will be interesting to see where this all goes.