While yesterday we mentioned how many are getting more from their router
by upgrading to third-party modified firmware, the popular Surfboard modem is also seeing some less legitimate modifications. To the chagrin of ISP's, many groups are developing a new generation of cable modem hacking tools that do much more than simply uncap service.
Unfortunately uncapping your cable modem can result in service termination - or in some rare cases - much worse
as one Ohio businessman we interviewed last year will tell you
; so doing so is obviously not advised. Since more newbie friendly uncapping tools showed up in 2001 and 2002
, there's been a flurry of less technical users (unaware of how quickly their experiment can land them in hot-water) showing up in our forums begging for forgiveness and a solution
after they've found their service terminated.
This interesting Security Focus article
takes a look at Sigma, a new program released last month that's already been downloaded hundreds of times. Sigma is flashed into the non-volatile memory of certain Motorola modems allowing complete control over the hardware. Hacking the Surfboard with an inexpensive chip and a soldering iron, users rlogin to the device and tinker with the modem's VxWorks operating system and web interface.
From there the user can not only uncap the modem, they can often "unregister" the modem to try and obtain free service, as well as snoop through the network's raw data stream (often unencrypted, unless the ISP turns the DOCSIS encryption option on - which most don't). A CableLabs spokesman in the article claims the hack only works on DOCSIS 1.0 modems, and will be more difficult with DOCSIS 1.1 and 2.0 where modems only accept firmware digitally signed by the cable company. The designers of the hack argue that as long as the customer has the hardware in their hands, there's always a way.