Fon VoIP network being disrupted by protest over Wi-Fi adverts
Users submerging routers to neutralise flaw
Why are people "moving" their FON routers into the lake? It's because of a clever idea - or so it seemed: let people "earn" 15 minutes of free Internet time on the FON Wi-Fi network by watching adverts.
A FON user, Claudi, kicked off the protest on the FON discussion boards:
I just realized that fon allows 15 minutes of free surfing on my personal fonera without prior asking for my permission.
I found out that ANYONE can use those 15 minutes for anonymous surfing - when opening the free account any faked email address can be used. 15 minutes is a long time and nobody can control what an anonymous user is able to do in that time on my router. I do have safety concerns and do not agree to this and therefor moved my fonera virtually into a lake near Madrid: http://maps.fon.com/?lt=40.5423736000&ln=-3.78993988000&zm=14
I suggest that anyone else thinking that fon should NOT act that way moves her/his fonera there as well. You might want to change the address of your router location as well, an address like "Av.Padre Cipriano 25" in Madrid/Madrid/Spain workes fine for me.
The idea was born and discussed in the german speaking http://www.fonboard.de
I leave my fonera there until fon solves the safety issues - a VPN network routing all queries to fon might be a good starting point and is technically possible.
The "safety issues" appear to be primarily a concern for German users, because of strict Internet laws in that country, making the owner of an IP address responsible for anything transmitted from it.
The users are not actually dumping their Wi-Fi routers into the water. They are just disrupting the FON network by making them appear to be there.
The system is, apparently, wide open to abuse: the free 15 minutes are assigned to the apparent MAC (Media Access Controller) identity of the mobile device. It's not at all difficult to "spoof" a different MAC address and get another 15 minutes, completely anonymously.
FON's initial response was to close down the bulletin board thread, but it appears that during the night, this decision was reversed. It is now being described as "accidental" by employees of the network.
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A couple of corrections
Fon isn't actually a VOIP company, though they started out planning to be one. They have a loose partnership with Skype, but at this point, they're essentially just a seller of rebranded routers (La Fonera) and antennas (La Fontenna).
While the protest is indeed about how poorly the security of the "free 15 minutes" promotion was thought out, it should also be noted that we Foneros were left completely out of the decision-making process for it. We learned of it just before it was launched, and promises to have an "opt-out" have not been fulfilled.
In summary, we feel that Fon typically does what it wants despite the protests of it's members, who are suppressed when they don't tow the line as desired.
El Reg missed another Fon story this week, where Foneros were spelling out messages on Fon's hotspot map using the icons that show the home addresses of the members. Fon would not make these "opt-out" for privacy's sake, so we learned how to simply move them to neutral places. Fon acted quickly, for once, to eliminate this whole class of icons, after i posted a screen print in my El Fon Blog.
Nice idea for a protest
But I bet there's some poor bugger in a boat in the middle of that lake, wondering why he still can't get a connection!
I gave up on Foneristadom
I signed up with Fon about a year ago. I paid my $13 and received my router. I found out that I couldn't use it with my DSL connection. I wasted about a day of putzing around with it. Eventually after perusing the less than perfectly forms, I found out that it was a a known problem that I was encountering. I don't remember, and don't care to remember the particulars. It might have been something about the way my ISP handles DSL.
The end result? I flashed the Router. It's now a stock Linksys router.
And just to make it all the sillier? I live in a rural area. Nobody, but nobody but me is going to use this router anyway.
It would be useful to find out how many people had experiences similar to mine. I wager a fair number of people got pissed off & flashed the router. It could make for some embarrassing information for the company.