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BT scan and notify customers of potential safety issue
Tuesday 24 May 2011 16:40:31 by John Hunt

Back in October 2010, BT issued a safety notice to BT Vision customers over some powerline adapters that they had distributed to customers which contained a manufacturing fault which could lead to live mains electricity components becoming exposed. The full safety notice and details on how to replace the adapters with the BT provided replacements can be found here.

The Register have uncovered that BT have been scanning customer networks looking for the offending devices and have written to those users where it sees these are still deployed to warn them again about the potential safety risk. BT say they reserve the right to scan the users network to help it provide the service but the question of concern lies in what else BT have looked at on a users network and how are they using this information.

"[T]here may be other circumstances in which we would carry out remote diagnostic tests of customers' equipment to make sure all is working.

"We don't believe that consent is necessary where the testing is necessary to the service that we are providing."

BT Statement

As The Register point out, BT are likely detecting the devices based on the MAC address (no relation to a broadband migration code) which is a unique identifier which helps devices to communicate with one another on a network in a similar way to an IP address (although at a lower level of the chain). MAC address ranges are assigned to companies and this information can be used to identify who made, how many, and what kind of devices are operating on the network. This could prove useful information from a sales perspective as it could help BT market specific products based on what equipment users have connected.

One example where this could be useful is in a support issue where a user reports slow speeds. If BT can see that there are many devices connected, it could be that the user is overloading their broadband connection and the user could benefit from upgrading to a faster BT Infinity service.

It's worth noting that this isn't the first instance of ISP's scanning their customers. Many ISPs operate similar policies of scanning and notifying customers for potential security issues such as open SMTP relays which could allow spam e-mail to be sent. Scanning inside a users network is just taking this a step further, but privacy campaigners are likely to suggest this is a step too far.

Comments

Posted by b4dger over 5 years ago
"...it could be that the user is overloading their broadband connection and the user could benefit from upgrading to a faster BT Infinity service..."

I would LOVE to be able to upgrade to FTTC!!!

Where can I buy the necessary defective kit ;¬)
Posted by NilSatisOptimum over 5 years ago
Here Here!!
Posted by tommy45 over 5 years ago
What utter nonsense to put it politely , first phorm now this they think it good to snoop perhaps, but i would imagine that this would only be possible if the customer was using the supplied hh router complete with the built in back door?
Posted by Tox-Laximus over 5 years ago
BT stuff tends not to work right if at all, now their incompetence could kill it's customers, wow BT you surpassed my expectations.
Posted by russianmonkey over 5 years ago
Why aren't people seeing that BT are checking if customers are using the correct equipment as the wrong equipment could be hazardous.

People are looking to what BT COULD use it for, not what it IS using it for.
Posted by Tox-Laximus over 5 years ago
Coz their not stupid, thats why.
Posted by stewart_uk over 5 years ago
BT are using this "safety" product recall to try and reduce the bad press that the Comtrend PLT adapters have been getting by causing radio interference. They are substituting another model with different characteristics to try and take the heat off...
Posted by NetGuy over 5 years ago
@russianmonkey - they sent out replacement units, and sending a reminder letter out a few months later is all they really needed to do.

I doubt many people have seen anything in T+C which even hint at "scanning your LAN to find what is connected" while "monitoring" if used, as a 'carte blanche' to allow them to do whatever they want is too woolly, when put into context, with this privacy breech.

Glad I don't use BT and nothing would persuade me, however good the offers in future.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Tox, BT don't make the adapters, Comtrend do, its a Comtrend issue. But certainly a bad idea to scan peoples networks.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
I doubt very much there's any sort of real "scanning" going on like a probe. Its more likely they are pulling the attached devices log/status from the HomeHub and as has been suggested checking the mac addresses for the faulty Comtrend models. As opposed to sniffing the network I mean.

You can see why they would do it, I mean some people might have ignored the recall letters, some may not have got them, but without consent? Very dodgy.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Ok so (no surprise) the register has it wrong. I've got the letter in question (I didn't read it as I replaced mine ages ago) it doesn't say at all that they've detected the old adapters still in use. They are stating their remote diagnostic tests show the replacements have not been connected to BT Vision.

That is a massive difference IMO, they could easily implement a check on the Vision box to detect whether the new adapters are in use, the Vision box is their kit. That is a world away from this so called snooping?
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Amazing how such reports can be spread as fact. The register prints an untruth and its built upon and confirmed as scanning customers networks on here.

Here is the exact text from my letter:-

"We have sent you replacement powerline adapters. However, from remote diagnostic tests they do not appear to have been connected to your BT Vision system. Please could you replace your old adapters as soon as possible?"
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
There is nothing about scanning your network and finding your old adapters in use. I would say its a check within BT Vision. I don't use Vision anymore hence it hasn't detected the new adapters being used so I'm flagged. No scary snooping at all, I don't even use the HomeHub so what could they use to snoop my local traffic? Nothing.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
So 3hrs ago I post a comment on the register about the article and the real text on the letter (not their version) all totally above board, no swearing just pointing out their inaccuracy, no reason not to approve it.

Rejected as it makes there story look like a mockery as its picking up a nice pace now on the bashing front. And they wonder why they are seen as the IT equivalent of the Sun
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Here is what the rejected:-

From the article

"But customers who eschewed the operator's advice (having examined the devices and satisfied themselves that they were safe) have now received letters telling them that BT's "remote diagnostic test" shows the devices are still connected and warning the customers of the ongoing danger."
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
..cont


I've got the said letter in front of me, here is the exact text:-

"We have sent you the replacement powerline adapters. However, from remote diagnostic tests they do not appear to have been connected to your BT Vision system. Please could you replace your old adapters as soon as possible?"
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
..cont


There is a huge difference between the two, the letter doesn't say they've found the old adapters in use? They state using remote diagnostics they have not been connected to the BT Vision box.

They own the Vision box so its entirely possible they could implement a check to see if you have connected the replacements and if not tell you about it? And that is a world away from this so called snooping the network charge.
Posted by m0aur over 5 years ago
despite top prices, BT have a long history of supplying unsafe cheap junk, some of which does not even meet EEc requirements. They pulled exactly the same trick of supplying cheap power adapters for the HomeHub 2, which fell in half exposing all the electronics as they were pulled from the mains socket. Anotyher BT nightmare, was the cheap out of spec HomePlugs they supplied with their Vision boxes.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Comtrend nor BT new of this issue when they were supplied though.. obviously. The replacements work great, free as well :)
Posted by tiggerrmummy over 5 years ago
Our old comtec were fine, we had one of the new black ones sent to us and we swapped them over and after that our vision service was rarely working so we ditched it and ended up going beck to sky after 4 years. We spoke several times to bt and they didnt know what the problem was. They kind of lost out more than we did.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
I ditched vision as soon as I heard how loud the fan was even on standby, it was the first version of the box, not sure if its improved or not
Posted by alan-borers over 5 years ago
I seem to remember that in the early days of Microsoft Office software the Operating System "Phoned Home" to their Market Research with a list of all installed third party applications,
and third party developers raised a stink over that.
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