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Linksys firmware upgrade for Wi-Fi routers angers some users

Stephen Lawson | July 2, 2012
Some users of new Wi-Fi routers from Cisco's Linksys division complained this week that the company automatically updated the routers' firmware and pushed them toward a cloud-based administration service they didn't want.

Cloud-based router management is not necessarily less secure than the traditional method of logging into the device over the LAN, said Farpoint Group analyst Craig Mathias. Any router connected to the Internet may be susceptible to an outside attack, he said. And management from the cloud is more convenient because it can be done from anywhere, he said.

"We see cloud-based management as ultimately the dominant vehicle ... for almost everybody," Mathias said.

However, Mathias warned against allowing automatic firmware or software upgrades.

"If someone hacks that interface, they can load any firmware they want into your router," he said. Some users complained that when they discovered the problem and tried to turn off automatic firmware updates, they couldn't. The rollback instructions posted Friday included directions for turning off that setting.

Another concern raised in user comments came from Cisco's privacy policy for the Cisco Connect Cloud. "When you use the Service, we may keep track of certain information related to your use of the service," the policy said. Among other things, that data may include how much traffic is going through the router every hour; that information includes the Internet history from the home network, the policy said.

In the policy, Cisco said it "may share aggregated or anonymous user experience information with service providers contractors or other third parties," but that the data would not personally identify the user in any way.

Mathias condemned that practice.

"There is no legitimate reason for them to do that, other than they want to make more money," he said.


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