In a era where cyber security is becoming increasingly important, Comcast has decided to use its customers' routers to provide hotspot access to the public. A new program, outlined by Dwight Silverman over on the Houston Chronicle website, seeks to provide Xfinity customers with city-wide Wi-Fi hotspots by using, well...other customers' wireless routers.
On the surface, this may seem innocuous enough—especially considering Comcast's insistence that the two connections always remain separate. But, as we well know, very little of our data is truly secure, and any extra vulnerability like this will invariably open the door to potential exploits, though that may not necessarily be the case here.
Customers will be notified with a mailer before their router is remotely turned into a public hotspot, and when Comcast flips the switch, they'll send out an email to reiterate. But, for a company whose customer service is rated so poorly that it even has its own Wikipedia article, an opt-out service with these kind of reprocussions seems ill-advised.
XFINITY WiFi Home Hotspots, as it's being dubbed, requires an Arris Touchstone Telephony Wireless Gateway Modem for Comcast to activate the functionality.
If this is the model of router that Comcast has provided you, and you wish to disable this functionality, Silverman has outlined a few simple steps:
- Log into your Comcast account page.
- Click on Users & Preferences.
- Look for a heading on the page for "Service Address." Below your address, click the link that reads "Manage Xfinity WiFi."
- Click the button for "Disable Xfinity Wifi Home Hotspot."
- Click Save.
After that, you shouldn't have to worry about other folks using your router or any associated risks that may go along with that. The service is currently rolling out through the city of Houston, with more markets to begin testing shortly thereafter.
Hopefully, Comcast has gone to great lengths to ensure that this service isn't susceptible to attacks, but only time will tell what kind of vulnerabilities this poses, if any.