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Where do we want to take you this time?

By 87C751 in Technology
Sat Nov 08, 2003 at 04:26:32 PM EST
Tags: Security (all tags)

Sure email spam sucks, pop-up ads drive you nuts and Usenet is a sewer. But you'd think you could count on some basic 'net nuts and bolts to work as expected, wouldn't you?

Well, you would be mistaken.

Lots of companies make home networking equipment these days, including routers. A router is a box that tells packets how to go from here to there. It's supposed to direct traffic, not highjack it.

Belkin has other ideas. Starting with a posting in the NANAE newsgroup, and noticed on Guy Kewney's website, word is spreading about a new "feature" of Belkin's line of wireless-capable home routers. Every eight hours (until the function is disabled), a random HTTP request passing through the router is selected and redirected to an advertisement for their Parental Control subscription service. And it's not just new stock, either. Upgrading an existing unit makes this "feature" appear, as well.

A Belkin spokesposter says it's all for the convenience of the customer, naturally. But the NANAE thread is currently running 40-1 against the idea of highjacking net traffic, with some comparing this to VeriSign's SiteFinder fiasco and others wondering what else they can change remotely on their equipment.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Related Links
o Belkin
o posting
o Guy Kewney's website
o spreading
o advertisem ent
o says
o SiteFinder
o what else they can change remotely
o Also by 87C751

Display: Sort:
Where do we want to take you this time? | 82 comments (63 topical, 19 editorial, 2 hidden)
+1 FP (1.33 / 15) (#8)
by xutopia on Fri Nov 07, 2003 at 04:27:27 PM EST

For once I like a short article.

Seems pretty straightforward to fix (2.70 / 24) (#16)
by My Other Account Is A Hulver on Fri Nov 07, 2003 at 06:47:38 PM EST

It's defective.  Return to seller.  Tell your friends.  In fact, go out and buy one and then return it.  Buy ten.  Buy a hundred.

Returns are by far the best way of getting a point across, as it's the only figure that marketeers and beancounters can't blame on someone else.

I believe drduck is a genuine account, and I don't delete him because I'm a hypocrite. - rusty

+1 FP Jesus what some greedy assholes will do (1.94 / 34) (#17)
by Tex Bigballs on Fri Nov 07, 2003 at 06:59:19 PM EST

for a buck

What next? Some donations embezzling, tax evading, site admin takes a small, intimate online community and slaps google ads all over their articles?

Fuck, Tex. Now I'm gonna have nightmares. =( nt (1.12 / 8) (#21)
by Kasreyn on Sat Nov 08, 2003 at 12:02:46 AM EST

nt means NO TEXT
"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
jeez, Tex, (none / 3) (#56)
by vyruss on Mon Nov 10, 2003 at 07:15:40 AM EST

your post induced a knot in my stomach... butterflies... shit... I'm off to get an antacid.

  • PRINT CHR$(147)

[ Parent ]
So they're doing what with my request? (3.00 / 22) (#20)
by smarkb on Fri Nov 07, 2003 at 09:21:25 PM EST

So the router is redirecting an HTTP request to Belkin?

What if I was in the middle of shopping or emailing? Would Belkin get all the HTTP POST/GET string I just thought I sent to another site?

If this redirect & router reset does have an exploitable back door then it may be much more than simply annoying you with adverts.


The rat from Belkin had Google de-archive his post (2.86 / 23) (#22)
by kelkemesh on Sat Nov 08, 2003 at 12:03:32 AM EST

It's been archived outside of the rat's control at http://stevesobol.com/belkin.txt .

That should have been in the article (none / 2) (#73)
by ph317 on Tue Nov 11, 2003 at 11:03:45 AM EST

That's their response, and they deserve to be able to respond.  When I read the article, I was pissed.  After reading the manager's response, I was much more ok with things.  I don't like it, I won't buy it, and I'll tell my less-technical friends not to buy it, and it sets a bad precedent.  But it's obvious that while they misunderstood the implications of what they did, they weren't intending to be all that evil.  They did make it so that it disables when you click no thanks.  For those worried about CC data in POSTS, well if your POST was SSL the router can't touch it anyways.

IMHO, if I were forced to design such a feature, here's the changes I would make to circumvent some of the problems their solution causes:

  1. Instead of stealing one HTTP request every 8 hours - steal every HTTP request by default, so that all pages come up as this ad and you can't reach the rest of the net.
  2. The stolen requests, rather than being redirected to an external site, should be served straight out of the router statically.  It should be a simple page that describes the service, and asks them to do a yes/no on whether they're interested.
  3. If they close the window and pick neither, the perma-redirect remains in effect.  If they pick yes, the redirect is terminated permanently and they are sent off to the remote ad site once, and from then on it's a normal router.  If they pick no, the redirect is terminated permanently and that's that.
This scheme, to a marketing or manager guy, might seem near identical to their scheme.  However, the differences are huge, and I think this one would have been far more palatable.

[ Parent ]
Post may be hard to find (2.73 / 15) (#23)
by seebs on Sat Nov 08, 2003 at 12:38:54 AM EST

It looks like the Belkin guy's post disappeared from Google Groups around 8:30-8:50 Central time today (November 7th).  I wrote him a letter this evening about my concerns, and he did write back saying this will get resolved.

I think it's too late.  Knowing that they were able to do this once, I can't trust that they won't do it again.  The only way I could have *ANY* confidence is if the whole lifecycle of that decision were made fully public, internal memos and discussion and all, for people to review, so we could be sure of who made this decision and what they were thinking; then we could make an informed decision as to whether or not the problem has been dealt with.  Without that, how can we know?

Convenient for the customer? (2.35 / 17) (#24)
by Tezcatlipoca on Sat Nov 08, 2003 at 04:59:43 AM EST

Why oh why every time one company says this it has become to signify "it was good for us and could get away with it".

I will never buy Belkin stuff again. As I have done with products from other companies with no integrity.

Nobody cares, but that is the only way one has to make a point.

Might is right
Freedom? Which freedom?

Email exchange (2.45 / 11) (#25)
by arvindn on Sat Nov 08, 2003 at 08:52:17 AM EST

--- Eric Deming <EricD@belkin.com> wrote:
> Thanks for your very original e-mail. (seen 10 just
> like it today alone) But I understand your concerns.
> Please be advised, we are working on this issue.
> Here is text from our latest posting to NANAE on
> google. It just went up, so it may not show up for a
> while.

Yeah I've seen it already.

I know you're getting inverse-spammed a lot, and its
mostly from slashdot. I'm actually really surprised you
replied to my mail, I thought your mailbox would be

I don't know if I can trust what you say, that your
intentions were great and you merely overlooked the
evil effects, but at least you've owned up on your
front page that you screwed up.
But I really really hope you fix it, and fix it for real,
because if you don't there are only two choices:
* the negative PR forces you out of business
* you manage to pull it off and other companies think
this is a great idea and soon all that we'll have of the
internet are fond memories.

Mind you, even if you fix it, you still have a lot of bad
PR to contend with. I for one, wouldn't buy a thing from

BTW, is this you?

So you're a *manager*? The page the picture was in
says product manager. I would have thought there'd be
techie/sysadm types doing the posting on NANAE. I

And oh yeah, the *other* message on NANAE that
you got google to take down -- its still up at:



Thanks to kelkemesh for the archive of the post.

So you think your vocabulary's good?
Manager posting to NANAE (none / 2) (#70)
by Cloaked User on Tue Nov 11, 2003 at 05:00:48 AM EST

It'll be a manager posting about it to NANAE rather than a techy because almost certainly the techies won't be authorised to make that sort of post without permission. This is not a technical matter that they're talking about here - it's a matter of company policy.

Chances are a techy noticed the original thread, told his manager, and it was decided that this guy should speak for the company.

As for the advertising itself, well, I'll not be buying another Belkin product. A router that routes packets to the wrong destination once every eight hours? That's just broken, even with the opt-out. Makes me wonder what my Belkin nics at home might be doing without my knowledge.
"What the fuck do you mean 'Are you inspired to come to work'? Of course I'm not 'inspired'. It's a job for God's sake! The money's enough and the work's not so crap that I leave."
[ Parent ]

Yeah, its on by default, but... (1.59 / 22) (#28)
by zrail on Sat Nov 08, 2003 at 01:21:26 PM EST

Its really easy to turn off. All you do is login to the router, go to "Parental Controls" and check the box that says "Do NOT remind me again". I can't believe that this is such a huge issue, especially when the function is exposed like that. If it was buried under three setup menus and two logins I would be worried, but its not.

It isn't... (2.62 / 8) (#32)
by Kal on Sat Nov 08, 2003 at 06:19:19 PM EST

It isn't the fact that it's easy to turn off that makes it an issue. It's the fact that the company that produced the device is changing the basic premise under which it operates, namely to pass packets from one interface to another. Making it not do that, at any time, turns it into something other than a router and it should be marketed as such.

[ Parent ]
right (2.66 / 9) (#38)
by rhyax on Sat Nov 08, 2003 at 09:09:54 PM EST

and why stop there? i mean my ethernet card is a valuable marketing venue that is underutilized. and why just my local router, most IP requests pass through upwards of 10 routers, all unused marketing opportunities. you could just have an opt out with each higher level ISP that your packets might be routed through.

whatever, i actually just think you're trolling, but people voted you up, so maybe some of them believe it's not an issue.

[ Parent ]

spamlike (2.75 / 4) (#46)
by frozencrow on Sun Nov 09, 2003 at 11:59:55 AM EST

It's the same way spam started. One unsolicited message in your mbox is easy to deal with, but the problem today is a bit larger than that.

I'm rather unenthusiastic about what it will be like when every device in my house is pinging me with a nagvertisment every few hours.

[ Parent ]

That's not the issue. (none / 2) (#72)
by Valdrax on Tue Nov 11, 2003 at 11:01:50 AM EST

There are several issues to which the relative ease of the GUI to turn it off is irrelevant.

A)  They shouldn't have done it in the first place.  The router is not a place for marketing.
B)  If they did do it, they should've made it only happen on the FIRST page after a router is rebooted (like after the firmware upgrade) instead of a random connection every 8 hours.
C)  Unless you fiddle with a setting, it will continue to hijack a random connection every 8 hours.  Unless web browsing is the ONLY thing you do over HTTP, you may miss this event for a while.
D)  To turn it off, your router has to allow Belkin's servers to send back a message to remotely disable it.  Just what kind of other settings can be fiddled with by a remote system?

The last two are perhaps the most important.  The router breaks things and has revealed itself to be a potential security problem.  That's unacceptable in a piece of networking hardware.  Belkin does not deserve the patronage of the customers that they've abused anymore.

[ Parent ]

Remote updates factored: the manufacturer's dilema (1.38 / 18) (#29)
by K5 Troll Authority on Sat Nov 08, 2003 at 04:14:33 PM EST

The market Belkin's in, home routers, is an ungrateful one. It's not as glorious as the high-end dominated by the likes of Cisco yet it keeps all it's blues: your product has to be flawless, perfect, working all the time or the customer gets mad. Actually, I'm all for demanding customers — they up the ante of the marketplace. Those demanding customers, or rather the fear of them, led Belkin to invest in a new technology for its routers to let them remotely upgrade their software, all of this for the good of the customer which would have his router upgraded automatically saving both his time and Belkin's customer support budget.

What happened here is an unfortunate alignment of constellations: on one side of the horizon Belkin developed remote firmware upgrades. On the other side, they developed parental control software. How can parental control not be good? I, as a father, certainly wouldn't want my child hanging around sex sites and I'm relieved I have a program that fills that gap.

If I were a customer of Belkin's, I'd actually be very happy that they brought to my attention their parental control service since I'm sure that as an existing customer it'd be offered at an attractive rate and allow me to save money, which perhaps could be used to better educate my child. These people are being too biased, putting Belkin on the gallows without first seing their side. It's sad, really.

K5: we get laid more than Slashdot goons — TheGreenLantern

They have no side (2.91 / 12) (#31)
by dennis on Sat Nov 08, 2003 at 06:07:37 PM EST

Belkin could serve your needs just as well by giving you the opportunity to sign up for email notifications of new products. Most companies allow you to "register" your purchase in similar fashion.

Instead, they chose to force all their customers to view their marketing messages, by subverting the core functioning of their product. If you dialed your phone, and your call got re-routed to a recorded advertisement from the phone company, would you view this as acceptable too? What if it wasn't the phone company that did it, but a phone you bought at radio shack, occasionally misdialing so it can feed ads to you? And you weren't warned before your purchase that this would happen? Would you want your money back?

Or would you happily listen to the ads, thankful that the phone manufacturer was thoughtful enough to bring your attention to their wonderful marketing messages while you were trying to call your sister?

[ Parent ]

Re: they have no side (2.00 / 4) (#47)
by electronerd on Sun Nov 09, 2003 at 04:27:15 PM EST

Or would you happily listen to the ads, thankful that the phone manufacturer was thoughtful enough to bring your attention to their wonderful marketing messages while you were trying to call your sister?

Or 911.
[ 3 L 3 [ T R 0 |\| 3 R |) ]
electronerd, Code Poet and Recycle Bin Monitor
[ Parent ]
Difference is... (none / 0) (#79)
by partykidd on Sat Nov 15, 2003 at 02:35:08 AM EST

Calling 911 doesn't direct you through the phone company servers. It's a direct connection.

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle

[ Parent ]

Wrong analogy (none / 1) (#80)
by error 404 on Mon Nov 17, 2003 at 06:03:08 PM EST

Belkin is a hardware manufacturer. The analogy is that your phone hardware calls the ad server. Not that the phone company re-routes your call. Phone company servers don't enter the picture - when the ad comes up, you get connected directly to the ad server, instead of the phone company or 911 server.

I doubt that a phone server would be arguing with customers at this point - they'd be too busy being destroyed by the FCC and having the fragments sued into oblivion upstream and down. And rightly so.

Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]

Good sir, (2.33 / 6) (#36)
by it certainly is on Sat Nov 08, 2003 at 08:53:31 PM EST

If I were a customer of Belkin's, I'd actually be very happy that they brought to my attention their parental control service

I too would be happy about that, if Belkin had advertised their service on a piece of paper that I could not avoid reading while opening the box that the router came in. Much like the full frontal of Richard Simmons you see while opening the iPod packaging.

The advantage would be that evil lunix hackers could not take advantage of a piece of paper bundled with the router and turn my internet access equipment into a WMD. That would be as stupid as, say, selling an email client that deliberately runs malicious, untrusted code whenever it receives a carefully crafted email from the hackers. It would be the action of a company that screams WE DON'T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT SECURITY to the world.

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.
[ Parent ]

Their routers are broken (2.57 / 7) (#37)
by khym on Sat Nov 08, 2003 at 09:08:13 PM EST

If the "router" re-routed all HTTP requests to their site until you either sign up or say "no thanks", then you'd have something that wasn't a router, but would turn into one once you made it stop. However, re-directing random HTTP requests simply makes the thing broken.

Also, if you plug it in and test it using something other than HTTP, and then an automated script tries to make an HTTP connection, things are going to be screwed up. The box should say in big, screaming letters "WARNING: This piece of equipment will act in a broken manner until you fix it."

Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
[ Parent ]
Your troll detector is broken /nt (none / 1) (#63)
by mcgrew on Mon Nov 10, 2003 at 12:38:05 PM EST

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

On parental control (2.50 / 4) (#71)
by pwhysall on Tue Nov 11, 2003 at 07:29:02 AM EST

I think that the best way of policing which web sites your children visit, especially as they pass into their teenage years, is to place the computer in a location where the screen is easily visible to frequent passersby. For example, in the living room.

Software is only a partial solution to the problem of ensuring that children are not exposed to content their parents deem unacceptable. While it can provide some level of protection, parental supervision is better.
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
[ Parent ]

ITS MLP KTHX (NT) (1.00 / 15) (#33)
by omghax on Sat Nov 08, 2003 at 06:59:45 PM EST

I put the "LOL" in phiLOLigcal leadership - vote for OMGHAX for CMF president!
You could compare this to SiteFinder... (1.69 / 13) (#34)
by endeavor on Sat Nov 08, 2003 at 08:26:42 PM EST

... but you'd be wrong. At least if you think they're anywhere near equivalent. SiteFinder abused a gov't granted monopoly over the entire internet infastucture. Belkin (they make routers, apparently?) is taking advantage of the poor saps who buy their product and don't know any better. Consumers can always just return it, as others have already suggested, and get a decent Cisco or LinkSys router that doesn't force marketing down their throats.

I'm not quite sure why this is on the FP. I'm sorry I didn't notice it in the queue so I could vote it down. What? A company came out with a crappy product?! STOP THE PRESSES!

Sigh... (3.00 / 7) (#40)
by wji on Sat Nov 08, 2003 at 10:18:43 PM EST

The whole premise of capitalism being great is that people can make their own informed choices.

Did anyone who bought these routers know at the time that they stole your web traffic? Were they given the opportunity to make an informed choice?

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]

Domain names and phone numbers (3.00 / 8) (#42)
by michaelp on Sun Nov 09, 2003 at 01:31:05 AM EST

are supposed to be reliable. What Belkin is doing is akin to a phone making company randomly re-routing a few of your calls to their sales dept.

So I'd say the analogies to sitefinder aren't off-base, Belkin is also abusing an infrastructure regulated for reliability, the fact that they are doing it client side rather than server side hardly seems to render the analogy dis-equivalent.

After all if its ok for a company to render client side IP protocols unreliable (since one could always choose another product), then it should also be ok for ISPs to redirect requests to different addresses, and then for backbones serving ISPs, and then for the makers of the switches used by the backbones, and all the other hardware and software products between the client and their intended destination, at which point the reliability of the root DNS servers grows increasingly moot.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]

it's not "ok" (none / 2) (#54)
by endeavor on Sun Nov 09, 2003 at 08:10:58 PM EST

If Belkin had been granted the right to be the sole producer of IP routing devices on the entire planet by the government then I'd agree with the analogy. But that isn't the case.

Is this a real trend in the industry? Or just a single wacky experiment? I'm under the impression that it's the latter. If the former starts to happen then I'll get worried. Until then I would assume that a networking hardware review site would be the place for this kind of thing. Honestly, who comes to K5 looking for what kind of router to buy?

[ Parent ]

Ever used QuickBooks(tm)? (none / 0) (#66)
by error 404 on Mon Nov 10, 2003 at 03:38:58 PM EST

Tries to get you to sign up for something every few minutes.

You can't record a payment as "Payroll" unless you sign up for their payroll processing module, which is a monthly expense.

Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]

Caveat Emptor (2.58 / 12) (#35)
by virtualjay222 on Sat Nov 08, 2003 at 08:43:04 PM EST

I hope this article doesn't come as a suprise to anyone. What is unfortunate is that for a business to survive these days they almost always need to have a computer, and most people don't have a clue how they work - only how to use solitare and the word processor. So when something like this happens, they have no clue.

My question is this: why are their laws in the US that would allow the RIAA to sue some poor pimple-faced teenager, while they could instead be passing laws to protect consumers?

It's tempting to attribute it to the funding politicans recieve from business, but it's really the votes that matter to them.

If you feel compelled to respond to this, I ask that you refrain from such terms as "Liberal" and "Conservative." They, in my opinion, conceal more than they explain.


I'm not in denial, I'm just selective about the reality I choose to accept.

-Calvin and Hobbes

Take it to a judge (none / 2) (#52)
by darkonc on Sun Nov 09, 2003 at 07:06:01 PM EST

why are their laws in the US that would allow the RIAA to sue some poor pimple-faced teenager, while they could instead be passing laws to protect consumers?

I think that this stunt might fit the classification of 'Theft of telecommunications' or one of the computer hacking laws. If there's someone out there willing to throw it past a lawyer and then file a complaint and/or a private prosecution, I think it might dtrongly discourage Belkin (and others) from doing something like that again.
Killing a person is hard. Killing a dream is murder. : : : ($3.75 hosting)
[ Parent ]

Tell Belkin how you feel (2.60 / 10) (#39)
by cabalamat on Sat Nov 08, 2003 at 09:19:26 PM EST

I suggest people do what I did - email Belkin, telling them their policy is unacceptable, and that I won't be buying anything from them in future.

If lots of people do this, they'll get the message. I hope this company is hurt hard financially because of this - if they are not, other companies will decide it's a good idea, and we can kiss the Internet goodbye.

hurt hard financially?? (none / 1) (#60)
by mcgrew on Mon Nov 10, 2003 at 11:04:49 AM EST

This company should die and their board of directors impoverished.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Uncle Sam owns your traffic (2.83 / 6) (#43)
by Quietti on Sun Nov 09, 2003 at 04:57:58 AM EST

Noticing Belkin's snafu and the remote administration feature of Alcatel modems that leaked a while back, I wonder what other networking gear can be tapped or capped without our knowledge. I mean, China and the Arab Emirate Kingdom ordered routers and firewalls that can make selected parts of the Internet downright disappear from their citizens. What about that ADSL box or cable-modem you use? Surely you knew that they can be capped and crippled by remote?

What tells you that some obscure office of, say, the NSA, didn't manage to make backdoors mandatory on any networking gear manufactured in USA? If Belkin did it, ask yourself, what would prevent, say, Cisco, equipment from having undocumented features designed to remotely activate or deactivate functionalities, to help law enforcement people hack into your network?

The whole point of civilization is to reduce how much the average person has to think. - Stef Murky

Because the massive conspiracy ... (none / 0) (#59)
by Mr.Surly on Mon Nov 10, 2003 at 10:59:20 AM EST

... needed to cover this wouldn't hold.

[ Parent ]
Regarding Cisco... (none / 2) (#67)
by The Vulture on Mon Nov 10, 2003 at 06:36:27 PM EST

There was a story on that other site, ahem *Slashdot* ahem, back in April, about Cisco building such snooping tools into their routers.

Here's a link to the text of the draft document:

I suppose what frightens me the most is that you don't even need to have physical access to the router, you can do it via SNMPv3 (according to their draft).  Granted, SNMPv3 is fairly secure, but all it takes is to get the username/auth string, and you can get access from almost anywhere.

Since this was announced, I don't know if they intend to continue this, but this makes me dislike Cisco somewhat.

-- Joe

[ Parent ]

who? (none / 0) (#64)
by garlic on Mon Nov 10, 2003 at 12:47:40 PM EST

are you speaking of the united arab emirates, or a different country? Also, do you have a link for the arab nation reference? I'm interested in reading it.

HUSI challenge: post 4 troll diaries on husi without being outed as a Kuron, or having the diaries deleted or moved by admins.
[ Parent ]

Simple solution (none / 2) (#48)
by AngelKnight on Sun Nov 09, 2003 at 04:58:07 PM EST

Take the time to understand the tools you're using, the fixtures of your life.

Build your *own* gear to route your packets. Or look into others [smoothwall.org] to do it for you who aren't so obviously interested in picking your pockets.

personally, (2.25 / 4) (#49)
by werner on Sun Nov 09, 2003 at 05:39:50 PM EST

i've never (knowingly) used any belkin products - never seen them on offer really, or never noticed them. but now, i'm looking out for the name, just to be sure that i never buy any of their self-promoting crap - and by extension the dozen or so friends who seem to think i am their system admin.

belkin have basically shot themselves right in the foot. if they're redirecting your traffic, how the hell can you trust 'em not to be doing god knows what with your ip data?

i personally hope the company goes under quickly and painfully: the world will be a better place without such wankers in it.

Boycott Belkin (2.25 / 4) (#50)
by scratchy on Sun Nov 09, 2003 at 05:43:45 PM EST

Belkin is also way overpriced. A few years ago I dashed out to visit my local CompUSA for a PS2 splitter. There was only one in the store -- Belkin -- priced at $45. Tho this store was only one block away, I opted to get in my car and drive eight blocks to a Micro Center where I found a QMS brand for $3. I had noticed this trend earlier, that Belkin's prices are simply too high. My reaction was to boycott Belkin products. Oh, and QMS manufactures in Michigan.

Actually... (none / 1) (#51)
by tchuladdiass on Sun Nov 09, 2003 at 06:22:19 PM EST

It's not that Belkin is expensive for there cables, its CompUSA that has the markup. I used to work for an office supply company, and the dealer cost for any cables (belkin, generic, etc.), were usually a buck or two, but the suggested list price would be anywhere from 20 to 50 bucks.

[ Parent ]
You're right (none / 2) (#53)
by debacle on Sun Nov 09, 2003 at 07:57:48 PM EST

Over the summer I was setting up a few old comps on a serial hub so that we could play a little Starcraft.

Cables at CompUSA: $25
Cables at RadioShack: $7

Hub at CompUSA: $65
Hub at RadioShack: $23


My momma told me, you better shop around.

It tastes sweet.
[ Parent ]

I've noticed the same thing (none / 1) (#74)
by KWillets on Tue Nov 11, 2003 at 04:02:46 PM EST

A USB cable for $20.  I walked a few blocks to another store, got the same exact cable for about $3, and came back to get the printer at CompUSA.

It's the old cheap burger, expensive drinks strategy.  The main products are discounted, but every single accessory is marked up through the roof.

[ Parent ]

The intro part is insidious. (1.50 / 4) (#55)
by Fen on Sun Nov 09, 2003 at 10:27:31 PM EST

It's pessimism of the kind that can drive the suicidal over the edge. The basic form is you'd think at least there's some good in the world...but you're wrong. The idea is to not just be straight pessimistic, but try to bring people down by supposing things are one way (often brought from a supposedly better past), and informing them they are worse. Pessemistic and cynic ideas already infect our world far too much--why must people use this form of it?
Take a deep breath. (none / 2) (#58)
by UncannyVortex on Mon Nov 10, 2003 at 10:38:20 AM EST

Have you had your Zoloft (TM) today, bud?  Always remember, you're a good person.  The world needs you, so step back from that ledge, my friend.

Poor spelling and grammar already infect our world far too much.  Why must such postings continue it?

[ Parent ]

Immoral ethics (1.20 / 5) (#61)
by mcgrew on Mon Nov 10, 2003 at 11:09:06 AM EST

This is what happens when you replace morals with ethics. A code of ethics is whatever kind of ethics you want to code.

By Belkin's code of ethics, this is entirely acceptable. Of course, it still remains morally sleazy- but morals are out of fashion. Witness Enron/Merc/RIAA/MPAA/GWB/etc/etc.

Ethics are for people who can't tell right from wrong; in short, psychopaths and sociopaths.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie

No, this is what you get without either... (2.75 / 4) (#68)
by baron samedi on Mon Nov 10, 2003 at 07:33:33 PM EST

What Belkin has done is also unethical. I think that most people agree that a practice like this is unethical, at least I think it is.

When companies act like this, it indicates that they are acting without any ethical guidance. Ethics are not made on the fly, but rationalizations for being unethical often are.

Being ethical does not mean that you simply do whatever the fuck you want. I don't believe in morals, because I'm not religious, but I am nevertheless very strongly bound by ethics. I am not a sociopath, and your understanding of the term ethics is the exact opposite of what ethics are.

Perhaps you are meaning to criticize what's commonly understood as "situational ethics", wherein one considers each act discreetly, as a series of separate universes in which right and wrong can vary from once instance to another?

In any case, I don't buy your argument that "corporate morality" has been replaced by "corporate ethics" with the end result being the situations you describe concerning Enron, etc. Since corporations rarely involve themselves with religious doctrines, I have to wonder what corporate morality would look like. Would employees be forced to conform to the company's religious outlook? Would their products proslytize in addition to their other functions?

I don't think the history of business points to a time when a uniform understanding of morality was the guide to how responsible businesses should act. Ethics have always been the standard by which responsible businesses act.

The situations you describe are examples of corporations acting unethically. If someone considers it immoral, too, then fine, but the fact that it's so grossly unethical outrages me just as much as someone who thinks it's immoral.

"Hands that help are better by far than lips that pray."- Robert G. Ingersoll
[ Parent ]

Define ethics (none / 1) (#75)
by Brandybuck on Wed Nov 12, 2003 at 02:31:41 AM EST

I think that most people agree that a practice like this is unethical, at least I think it is.

No, the parent got it right, in a way. Morality defines what is right and what is wrong. Ethics defines what is acceptable and what is not. By definition, ethics is a code of behavior based on morals. But morality has gone out of fashion. After all, no one wants to be offended by having their actions declared immoral! In today's culture, nothing is good or evil, right or wrong, moral or immoral. It's all relative.

So what's ethics without morality? Not much. It's just a fill-in-the-blank template for behavior. Morality says that theft and deception are wrong. Hijacking a router to advertise your product is theft. Building a router that doesn't route is deception. Belkin are, in short, lying thieves. But oh! That's moralism, and we can't have that!

Absent morality, all Belkin can use to govern its behavior is a code of ethics. And since the hijacking of routers wasn't a problem in the past, their ethics simply don't address that specific issue. That "blank" wasn't filled in. There's no body of cultural relativism to say it's unacceptable. There's no laws saying it's illegal. So until culture or law comes around and states router hijacking to be wrong, Belkin is behaving ethically.

<sarcasm>How dare you say Belkin is wrong! Who are you to judge their morality></sarcasm>

[ Parent ]

I will define ethics (none / 2) (#76)
by baron samedi on Wed Nov 12, 2003 at 02:46:34 PM EST

I was waiting for someone to ask this.

Morality derives what is right and wrong from what God supposedly says is right and wrong. That's morality.

Ethics derives its sense of right and wrong from the mores and contracts of societies that we live in. In many cases, ethics is most certainly informed by morality. It's both immoral and unethical to commit murder, for instance.

Just because it's legal, that doesn't make it ethical. It's not illegal to commit adultery, but it is an unethical thing to do.

There's no body of cultural relativism to say it's unacceptable.

There is. What do you think we are doing right now? I don't know about you, but I'm in a position to buy or not buy Belkin products, and I often base my consumer habits on the ethical track record of a company.

Companies receive mixed signals. On the one hand, most of us know what's unethical or even immoral, but the free-market fanatics are also pursuing this line where companies are expected and even encouraged to break or bend or circumvent the rules, especially government regulations that are in place precisely because given the chance, companies choose to behave unethically when they can get away with it.

Once again, I reiterate: Belkin is acting unethically. There is no way to justify what they've done.

I'm also not sure what morality is supposed to bring to a company. Wal-Mart makes a lot of hay about how decent and God-fearing and all-American their operation is (read: Moral), while steadfastly resisting paying their employees a living wage, and pricing health care benefits out of reach for all but a handful of their employees. So I'm not sure that companies who get on the morality bandwagon are any more ethical than companies who don't.

As I told the other poster, ethics doesn't mean you can just do whatever you want.

Ethics and morality are complimentary, not adversarial.

"Hands that help are better by far than lips that pray."- Robert G. Ingersoll
[ Parent ]

Morality (none / 0) (#77)
by Brandybuck on Wed Nov 12, 2003 at 03:42:20 PM EST

Morality derives what is right and wrong from what God supposedly says is right and wrong.

Morality is an external definition of right and wrong. That external source could be God, or something else like society, evolution or "the greater good". By rejecting morality, you're not rejecting God (sorry to burst your bubble), you're rejecting all external authority.

Ethics is a code of conduct based on morality. That's not me talking, that's the English dictionary. Without morality there is no ethics, only a flimsy legalistic matrix of acceptable behaviors.

There is. What do you think we are doing right now?

We're in the middle of the process of creating an "ammendment" to this cultural relativism. That doesn't mean it exists today, only that it may in the future. In the absence of morality, all one can do is look at the past to see who got into trouble for similar behaviors, and weigh the consequences with the potential rewards based on them.

[ Parent ]

Do you have a conscience? (none / 1) (#78)
by mcgrew on Wed Nov 12, 2003 at 07:39:05 PM EST

Morality doesn't need God's hand, so it doesn't matter whether you believe in Him or not.

Morality is pretty much hard wired into us- most of us, anyway. We can tell when an action hurts another, and what's worse, we emphathise- we feel uncomfortable, at least.

It is immoral to murder because you know murder is wrong. You don't have toi read the ten commandments, nobody has to teach you, it is instinctive; hard wired.

"Ethics" is a code of behavior that is agreed on. Lawyers have a code of ethics that is very much different from a doctor's code of ethics. The doctor's code says "first, do no harm"- a lawyer could not do his job under a doctor's code of ethics.

Ethics derives its sense of right and wrong from the mores and contracts of societies that we live in.

I signed no contract. But basically, you are right. Codes of ethics are contracts. But if there is no contract that you have signed, no promise that you have made to behave in a certain way, then you have no ethics, and cannot act unethically. You can, however, act immorally.

Wal-Mart makes a lot of hay about how decent and God-fearing and all-American their operation is

True- but just because someone claims to be moral doesn't mean they are. "Lip service" only has value when your zipper's down. Wal Mart's actions aren't moral. They are, however, ethical.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Reply I received from Belkin (2.75 / 4) (#62)
by Gailin on Mon Nov 10, 2003 at 11:40:47 AM EST

Here is the response the I received from Belkin to the email I sent them earlier:

Transcript of email sent: Original Email

The response came from

Eric Pipkin
Account Manager

He sent me a pdf file that I have put up for everyone to peruse.

PDF file


Every 8 hours?! (2.75 / 4) (#65)
by hatshepsut on Mon Nov 10, 2003 at 12:51:36 PM EST

That would drive me insane. I don't care what Belkin claims, they are making a router (a tool with a specific, narrow, and important function) do something else, in order to promote their other stuff.

Put some ads in the box with the router, spend some money on advertising (print, radio, TV media), whatever, but pop-up garbage on my system every 8 hours and that's it.

For the record, I don't own a Belkin router (nor will I ever buy any Belkin product), and I think that parental controls are garbage.

[ Parent ]

HA! "Not a popup" (3.00 / 4) (#69)
by curien on Mon Nov 10, 2003 at 08:18:04 PM EST

That's classic! Belkin are saying that it's not a pop-up advert because it takes over the WHOLE BROWSER! You've got to be shitting me.

A company fucking up is one thing. A company that fucks up and then refuses to appropriately prostrate itself is another matter entirely. Unlike many of you, I have actually purchased Belkin products (the computer I am using now is plugged into a Belkin surge protector), and I assure you that I have every intention of discontinuing the practice.

Screw teh tiger woods! I am teh Lunix Tarballs!
[ Parent ]

Smart people know for best security you have to (none / 2) (#81)
by JTMON on Thu Nov 27, 2003 at 01:40:45 PM EST

build it yourself. Even when companies aren't doing this we have no way of knowing what features they do have without monitoring and testing every piece of equipment.

Its just another wya to make a quick buck $$$ (none / 1) (#82)
by astroboysoup on Wed Dec 10, 2003 at 06:42:05 PM EST

They're product obviously isn't that great if they need to try and make an extra buck here and there by trying to steal you're bandwidth and sell you their Parental Control subscription. There are many better ways to promote and market a product. That definately isn't one of them. Neither is email spamming and pop up horrors.
I'll win the lotto one day...
Where do we want to take you this time? | 82 comments (63 topical, 19 editorial, 2 hidden)
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