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Virgin Media to battle modem hackers

Fraudsters grab free high speed broadband

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More than a thousand hackers are using reconfigured cable modems to fraudulently access free high speed Virgin Media broadband, sources have revealed.

The hack has been made possible by the recent launch of Virgin Media's 50Mbit/s "XXL" package. It relies on new equipment running the upgraded DOCSIS 3.0 data transmission standard.

The launch has allowed hackers to apply the new configuration from Virgin Media's official up to 50Mbit/s home modem to legacy DOCSIS 1.0 hardware, to access the DOCSIS 1.0 platform at higher speeds. Our source said over a thousand lines have been seen obtaining about 30Mbit/s downstream.

Virgin Media told The Register it was aware of the problem and was working to address it. It added that recent network upgrades allowed it to detect modems cloned in this way and it intends to pursue those involved. "The message is: we are onto this and we are after you," a spokesman said.

He said new routers in the firm's network were able to detect and take measures against cloned modems to ensure bandwidth is not stolen from legitimate customers. Many hackers, who trade details of their hacks in web fora, believe the modified modems are untraceable, but according to Virgin Media its new systems mean "that's absolutely not the case".

Virgin Media also sent this statement:

Virgin Media takes the issue of fraud on its network very seriously and, where appropriate, will prosecute. We have a range of tools that can detect fraudulent modems and service profiles on our network and a number of technological features which assist us in successfully addressing the challenge of fraudulent activity.

Whilst the numbers are small, we are actively tracking fraudulent activity and are rolling out a range of countermeasures to eliminate these fraudulent broadband users from our network.

Obtaining services dishonestly is an offence under section 11 of the Fraud Act 2006. A conviction carries up to 12 months in jail.

Fraud using modified equipment has also been a problem for Virgin Media's TV services. Last year a Scottish man was jailed after making £50,000 selling modified receivers that offered free access to premium channels.

Virgin Media investigators also participated in a raid on a modification operation in Lancashire last April, which saw six people arrested. ®

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