Comcast Punishes BitTorrent Pirates With Browser Hijack

Comcast revealed today how it will deal with customers who receive multiple warnings under the newly launched "six-strikes" anti-piracy system. After four alerts the ISP will "hijack" web-browsers of suspected serial pirates with a persistent pop-up notification, making it impossible to browse the Internet. The pop-up will disappear after the customer "resolves the issue" with a Customer Security Assurance professional.

pirateEarlier this week when the six strikes system launched, little was known (officially) about the punishments ISPs were planning for persistent pirates.

Since then Verizon reinstated their copyright alerts section, revealing the mitigation measured that leaked last month. Today Comcast follows with a brief overview on how they will handle things.

In common with other ISPs, Comcast will start out with friendly alerts informing customers that their account has been used to share copyrighted material, accompanied with an email listing details on the alleged infringement. After four warnings, repeated offenders will then enter the “mitigation phase” during which their service will be interrupted.

Comcast has chosen a browser “hijack,” making it impossible for customers to browse the Internet, but without interrupting VOIP and other essential services.

“If a consumer fails to respond to several Copyright Alerts, Comcast will place a persistent alert in any web browser under that account until the account holder contacts Comcast’s Customer Security Assurance professionals to discuss and help resolve the matter,” Comcast writes.


First alert notification

comcast-alert

How quickly customers will be able to resolve the matter and what they will have to do remains a mystery. However, the ISP stresses that no accounts will be terminated under the copyright alert program.

“We will never use account termination as a mitigation measure under the CAS. We have designed the pop-up browser alerts not to interfere with any essential services obtained over the Internet.”

Comcast further assures its customers that the browser hijack system has been tested for years, and that it should work smoothly.

“The browser alert system has been tested for years by Comcast as part of our program to alert our subscribers when their Internet access device is infected by a malicious bot, and the alert technology is now being deployed for this purpose,” Comcast explains.

In addition, the ISP emphasizes that the privacy is secured, up to a certain degree.

“We’ve worked with the Center for Copyright Information and outside experts in privacy, education and consumer rights to design the Copyright Alert System in a way that will safeguard our customers’ privacy and ensure we don’t share any personal customer information under this system with anyone.”

Comcast can be asked to hand over IP-addresses of persistent infringers, and the ISP acknowledges that copyright holders can then obtain a subpoena to reveal the personal details of the account holder for legal action.

Provided that doesn’t happen, the measures should seem rather reasonable to most.

A group that wont be happy with the new regime is the Open Wireless Movement. The tens of thousands of people who share their Internet connection with neighbors or complete strangers will no longer be able to do so.

Conversely, VPN providers and BitTorrent proxies can look forward to new clientele.

During the weeks to come we hope to learn more about the efficiency of the copyright alert system, and how the various alerts and mitigation measures work in the wild.

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