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Users enraged by Cisco's cloudy 'upgrade' to Linksys routers

Demand right to furtle own boxes in privacy

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Cisco was forced into reverse ferret mode late last week, after it automatically updated some of its Linksys routers in such a way as to make use of its Cloud-based management console obligatory.

But - following howls of protest from its customers - Cisco began offering punters the option of rolling back the firmware update to its EA Series of routers on Friday.

Some users posting on forums were particularly upset that Cisco had applied the changes to the routers where customers had previously agreed to have their firmware automatically updated.

One Reg reader alerted us to the issue by grumbling about the terms of service imposed by the networking kit giant.

As noted by Computer World, which was first to report the update causing concern among customers, some had expressed doubts about the security of cloud-based local area network (LAN) administration over Cisco's service.

Those attempting to control their routers without an internet connection found they were greeted with a local management interface that was strikingly different to the one found on the previous firmware.

It was claimed that routers could only be configured in a limited fashion for specific network and security settings. Other options such as parental controls and USB storage were only accessible after the device was plugged back into the internet.

One customer with the handle TonyPHX on Cisco's home community forum said:

I was actually really looking forward to the potential for the cloud apps on the 4500. What I see now is a serious deficiency in having to be forced to go through the cloud for basic router functionality. The interface is pretty but functionally inferior and slow to do edits with. Honestly, it is a real let down.

But to restrict functionality and access to functions UNLESS signed into the cloud? No way jose. Cisco, you are a hardware manufacturer, NOT my network administrator by proxy.

The routers subjected to the firmware update were the EA4500, EA3500 and EA2700 models. That kit had been specifically designed by Cisco to run third-party apps.

The devices were only released in April this year and at the time Cisco did say that it would begin offering free software that would allow the routers to be managed remotely via its cloud service.

A Cisco administrator said in the post detailing how customers could roll back to the older version of the firmware:

We are sorry to see you downgrading to our Classic software (non-Cloud) on your EA Series Router. Your EA series router with Cisco Connect Cloud software provides you a new way to experience your connected home and a growing ecosystem of apps. By downgrading your firmware to Cisco Connect 1.4 you are not able to take full advantage of your new EA Series Router.

However, the Cisco wonk then went on to explain in detail how to downgrade.

The networking giant's privacy policy was also lambasted by Cisco customers, who complained that the company's terms of service were "intrusive".

Another customer claimed among other things that Cisco would track a user's internet history and manage bandwidth and usage.

The Register asked Cisco to comment on this story. It declined to give us a statement and instead steered your correspondent toward a blog post penned by its home networking veep Brett Wingo.

"When a customer signs up for a Cisco Connect Cloud account, personal information is used only to establish an account in order to provide customer support," he said.

"Cisco Connect Cloud does not actively track, collect or store personal info or usage data for any other purposes, nor is it transmitted to third parties." ®

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