Virgin Media Just Gave All Of Their Customers Plausible Deniability‎


My current ISP is Virgin Media. They get a lot of stick for being a bit useless - but I can't fault the speed of my domestic connection. They recently upgraded me for free to 152Mbps downsteam (and a less impressive 12Mbps up).

As part of this upgrade, they sent me an email stating:

now that your broadband has been supercharged, on the house, why not put it to the test? You've got the UK's fastest widely available broadband speed which is 12x faster than Sky and BT's regular broadband^, so get your friends over with their tablets, phones and laptops to try it out.

Well, that'll be a fun evening, eh? All of us sat around pushing the fibre to its limits. But, wait! How will all my friends get on the wifi?

Luckily, Virgin has thought of that. The bottom of the email helpfully suggests...

P.S. You can even change your WiFi password so it's easier to share.
P.S. You can even change your WiFi password so it's easier to share.

Brilliant! Virgin's suggesting is that you change your super-strong password from "@WZ*dobAv8AxCbUeTckU" to "comein" so that your mate Dave can find it a bit easier to leach your WiFi.

This means three things.

  1. Your password is weaker! Making it much easier for a malicious user to guess.
  2. Dave now has access to everything on your network. Your file server, printer, TV, games consoles, security cameras, etc. He has unfettered access.
  3. If he is so inclined, Dave can download illegal content under the guise of your IP address. If he's smart, he'll drive round to your house, sit outside in his car and do it. Or maybe he'll just torrent Game of Thrones while the rest of you are playing MarioKart.

Virgin, however, don't see this as a problem.

Fixing It

It turns out, Virgin already thought of a solution to this problem. The SuperHub2 cable modem they provide isn't the best bit of networking kit in the world, but it does have "guest networks".

Log in to the SuperHub2, click "Advanced" and you're presented with this screen.

Virgin Guest Network

A Guest Network has a different SSID (Network Name) and, more importantly, is completely separate from your main network. Your friends will still have Internet access, but they won't be able to pilfer your files, control your telly, or switch your Internet Connected Fridge off.

I suggested this to Virgin, but they seem to think their customers are too thick:

Really, it's about as hard as changing the password on your main WiFi page.

If your friends can't bear your company without the pacifier of free WiFi, I strongly suggest that you set up a guest network. Add a password which is easy enough to type on a phone's keyboard, and let them run wild. Just remember - although they'll be unable to access your computers, you have no control over what sites they visit and which files they download...

Plausible Deniability

Perhaps that is Virgin's plan all along. As an ISP, the last thing you want is your customers getting sued for copyright infringement. You want the customer to enjoy all the delights that the Internet has to offer without constantly being worried that the cops are going to bust down their door.

Plausible deniability is a term coined by the CIA in the early 1960s to describe the withholding of information from senior officials in order to protect them from repercussions in the event that illegal or unpopular activities by the CIA became public knowledge.

"Who? Me officer? Why no! I certainly did not download those files. My IP address you say? Well, Virgin encouraged me to share my WiFi password with all my friends. I suppose it could have been any one of them. What? No, I don't know which of my mates likes Game of Thrones, I've never seen the show myself...."

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