Comcast in one of the largest cable television providers in the US. Recently, they have started sending messages through web browsers. If you are a Comcast user, you may have already noticed this. If you are not, then don’t be surprised if you see this happening on your internet provider soon. What do these messages say, you may ask? They are injecting a copyright notice in to your browser, if they think you are violating copyright laws. This is called a man in the middle attack.
Comcast’s move to do this is causing concerns across the board. That is because they are applying a technique referred to as Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). The pop up message you receive states that you are potentially in violation of copyright laws, and that they have sent you an email in regards this issue. Then, they make you close the notice, indicating you have read it and understand it.
In other words, they are monitoring where the member goes online and what they do. It could also mean they may turn you over to the lawyers or authorities. With Comcast taking that kind of control, it is no wonder that their users are concerned with potential privacy threats. By engaging in this behavior, they could technically alter what the user sees, and trick them in to logging in to a website. That may lead to information being used for dubious reasons like advertising, surveillance, or even censorship.
Comcast is no stranger to controversy. Despite rules in net neutrality, they used a loophole in their unlimited service to have legal streaming services like Netflix count against a data cap. They stated that it was being broadcast over it’s cable network instead. The US net neutrality laws are designed to stop video streaming services from counting against that cap. You can bet that they won’t be the only provider to participate in these types of actions. Since more cable providers are becoming ISPs as well, other companies may follow Comcast’s lead. According to ZDnet, Comcast has yet to comment on these allegations.
Having said all that, there is a way to combat these actions. Comcast is only able to monitor the user if they are using an unsecured connection. Websites that start with HTTPS instead of HTTP are not effected by that type of monitoring. The problem is, many sites are not by nature encrypted. Another way to stop this nosy ISP from monitoring you, is by using tools that encrypt your web traffic. The most cost effective way of doing that is by using a VPN.