Save WiFi: Act Now To Save WiFi From The FCC

Right now, the FCC is considering a proposal to require device manufacturers to implement security restricting the flashing of firmware. We posted something about this a few days ago, but completely missed out on a call to action. Contrary to conventional wisdom, we live under a system of participatory government, and there is still time to convince the FCC this regulation would stifle innovation, make us less secure, and set back innovation in the United States decades.

The folks at ThinkPenguin, the EFF, FSF, Software Freedom Law Center, Software Freedom Conservancy, OpenWRT, LibreCMC, Qualcomm, and other have put together the SaveWiFi campaign ( capture, real link is at this overloaded server) providing you instructions on how to submit a formal complaint to the FCC regarding this proposed rule.

Under the rule proposed by the FCC, devices with radios may be required to prevent modifications to firmware. All devices operating in the 5GHz WiFi spectrum will be forced to implement security features to ensure the radios cannot be modified. While prohibiting the modification of transmitters has been a mainstay of FCC regulation for 80 years, the law of unintended consequences will inevitably show up in full force: because of the incredible integration of electronic devices, this proposed regulation may apply to everything from WiFi routers to cell phones. The proposed regulation would specifically ban router firmwares such as DD-WRT, and may go so far as to include custom firmware on your Android smartphone.

A lot is on the line. The freedom to modify devices you own is a concern, but the proposed rules prohibiting new device firmware would do much more damage. The economic impact would be dire, the security implications would be extreme, and emergency preparedness would be greatly hindered by the proposed restrictions on router firmware. The FCC is taking complaints and suggestions until September 8th.

Even if you’re not living under the jurisdiction of the FCC, consider this: manufacturers of routers and other WiFi equipment will not be selling two version of hardware, one to the US and another to the rest of the world. What the FCC regulates affects the entire world, and this proposed rule would do us all a disservice. Even if you’re not in the US, tell your second favorite websites to cover this: neither Ars Technica nor Wired have posted anything on the FCC’s proposed rule, and even boingboing is conspicuously silent on the issue. You may submit a comment until September 8th here.

Cory Doctorow Rails Against the Effect of DRM and the DMCA

If you weren’t at [Cory Doctorow’s] DEF CON talk on Friday you missed out. Fighting Back in the War on General Purpose Computing was inspiring, informed, and incomparable. At the very lowest level his point was that it isn’t the devices gathering data about us that is the big problem, it’s the legislation that makes it illegal for us to make them secure. The good news is that all of the DEF CON talks are recorded and published freely. While you wait for that to happen, read on for a recap and to learn how you can help the EFF fix this mess.

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EFF Launches Open Router Firmware

Open Wireless Movement logo

The Electronic Frontier Foundation have released an alpha of their own Open Wireless Router Firmware as part of the Open Wireless Movement. This project aims to make it easier to share your wireless network with others, while maintaining security and prioritization of traffic.

We’ve seen a lot of hacks based on alternative router firmware, such as this standalone web radio. The EFF have based their router firmware off of CeroWRT, one of the many open source firmware options out there. At this time, the firmware package only targets the Netgear WNDR3800.

Many routers out there have guest modes, but they are quite limited and often have serious vulnerabilities. If you’re interested in sharing your wireless network, this firmware will help out by letting you share a specified amount of bandwidth. It also aims to have a secure web interface, and secure auto-update using Tor.

The EFF has announced this “pre-alpha hacker release” as a call for hackers who want to join in the fun. Development is happening over on Github, where you’ll find all of the source and issues.

Open Source Kinect contest has been won

Adafruit Technologies has announced the winner of the Open Source Kinect contest. [Hector], who we mentioned yesterday has won, providing both RGB and depth access to the device.  Some of you were asking at that time, why the contest was not over yet. Well, Adafruit had to verify. The image you see above are of another user[qdot], verifying the drivers on his machine.

What is interesting is how Adafruit has chosen to close this contest. Not only are they giving [Hector] his prize money, they are also donating an additional $2,000 to the EFF who fight for our right to legally hack and reverse engineer our own equipment.

[Hector] is being generous as well, using his prize money to help pay for gadgets to hack with some teams he is involved with, mainly the iPhone Dev Team and the Wii hacker team “Twiizers”

MBTA drops lawsuit against MIT subway hackers

The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) has dropped its federal case against three MIT researchers, “the subway hackers”. This happened in October and now the EFF brings news that the students will be working with the MBTA to improve their system. The overall goal is to raise security while keeping expenses minimal.

This whole mess started in August when a gag order was issued against the students’ presentation at Defcon. It’s a shame no one ever saw it because it covers a lot of interesting ground. A PDF of the banned slides is still online. They performed several attacks against both the subway’s fare system and physical security. Our favorites by far were using GNU Radio to sniff the RFID card’s transaction and bruteforcing Mifare Classic with an FPGA.

The EFF’s privacy agenda


With a new administration coming into power, the Electronic Frontier Foundation feels that it’s time for a change (see what we did there). They’ve posted an agenda that covers fixing privacy issues that have come to the forefront in the last eight years. It involves repairing amendments that prevent corporations from being sued for warrantless wiretapping. They would also modernize the Electronic Communications Privacy Act so that it would cover modern technology. The heavily abused State Secrets Privilege needs reform as well. Their final issue is with REAL ID and datafarming that many state governments have already rejected. If even a bit of this gets fixed, we’ll be happy. In any case, it’ll be good to have a more tech focused administration that doesn’t need the internet explained to it in terms of dumptrucks and tubes.

[photo: Jake Appelbaum]