Comcast HSI Abuse

A few weeks ago I recieved a voice message from someone claiming to be from the Comcast High Speed Internet Security Assurance Center. The message didn’t leave any details expect the call back number, 856-324-2025. I wondered why the security group was calling me, and why they didn’t have a toll free number. 856 is in NJ, and I only found one related forum posting with the same number. There were some forum posts with a similar number, but they were for DMCA Violations.

I decided to call the regular comcast help number (888-824-8103), and I questioned if my account was flagged for abuse and if they knew this number was legit. The support agent had to talk to his manager, and then he said to ignore the message, and if I were to get disconnected, to call back. I asked again if he could search his knowledge base to see if the number is in the system, but he couldn’t perform this type of global search.

Since I was still curious what the message was about, I attempted to call them everyday for two weeks. All I got from that number was an answering machine, and I left several messages. Finally today, someone called me back to explain what the message was about. The person didn’t ask for any identification of who I was, so that continued to make me suspicious. The agent said that I was flagged for network abuse, using 380gb in the month of November. This number was a bit above my normal traffic based upon my local network traffic logs, but I wondered why I wasn’t flagged before. He said that they only take the top percentage each month, and it of course varies per month. Fair enough answer, but then he said something interesting. He said that now that we talked, my account would be re-activated. My account was never disabled, but I decided to play along, and I immediatelly bitched at him for my account being disabled for so long. I said I called everyday, and left messages each time, and nobody called back until now, two weeks later. I then stated that it was unacceptabled to have my account off for so long, while being kept in the dark, with me continously attempting to contact them. He understood the complaint, but he didn’t offer any rebates or discounts.

He didn’t ask why I used that much traffic, he just said to try to lower the consumption. For those of you that are curious, all the traffic is legit, as I download raw network dumps and hdd images from various honeypots I have setup in various countries. I did understand last month being more, because I downloaded 60gb worth of 22C3 videos, and 80gb of md5 rainbow tables.

From the first voice message, and through when we actually talked, I kept in mind that the person might be a phisher. Based upon what he did and didn’t say, I think it was legit. So I guess that means the security assuance center is unprofessional, and probably overworked since it took them so long to get back to me.

The holidays are coming up, so everyone have fun and stay safe. Remember to never disclose too much information until you know the source is legit, as there are many phishers and social engineers out there.

23 Comments

  1. dysfirkin   •  

    got the same call. I do about 200GB per month in transfer mostly from usenet. I called comcast regular 800-comcast number and they said they had never heard of the 856.324.2025. I did a whitepages.com reverse lookup on the number though, and it is registered to comcast, so it is definetely legit. I guess that the days of unlimited may be coming at an end.

    I wish they were not so sneaky about it though.

  2. Wodz   •  

    I would like to form a group of users that have received these calls and possibly file a class action lawsuit against Comcast for this.

    November 2006
    I received the same phone call that these other users received. The man on the phone seemed to want to intimidate me. He said that I was using 900x more bandwith than normal users and I needed to immediately reduce my usage if I did not want my services discontinued. I fired back at him saying that internet usage is not specificed within the terms of services and he had no right to threaten action against my account. He was not willing to talk things out with me. It was as if a Mafia crony was calling to simply relay a message. He was not willing to divulge his name, employee number, or help me to better understand the terms of service that I was allegedly violating.

    The call seemed phony and I proceeded to call Comcast support and report what happened. Comcast technical services thought it was very strange and told me that there is no limitation of my usage. He continued to say it would be near impossible to monitor per user usage and attempt to monitor said usage. He assured me that I had nothing to worry about.

    April 2007
    I came home from work and my internet no longer worked. After calling support and having a difficult time uncovering the source, I found that my account had been suspended for HSI Abuse. I knew exactly why this was. I was given the phone number of the security team. Guess who picked up my call? The same mafia crony as before. He was extremely tight lipped and would not divulge any information. I demanded his employee number and he refused to give it to me. He said it was too late and I should have listened to them previously..

    I made multiple calls to the Security team and Comcast Support team and received conflicting information everytime. The only thing everyone agreed on is that I was not suspended from Comcast for 12 months for HSI Abuse. After 4 calls to the Security team I was able to get a knowledgeable employee who, after exchanging some remarks between us, was able to understand where I was coming from. I was not asking them to remove the ban. I wanted them to explain to me, what exactly happened and why I was unaware of it.

    I was told that the Terms of Usage states that “any excessive bandwidth usage may be subject for suspension”. If you understand networking, that statement is EXTREMELY vague and I cannot understand how something like this can even exist in a legal document. I asked the Security Team “how do you determine what you “deem” as excessive bandwidth usage” and I was told that whatever they felt was excessive, was excessive. Am I to understand that this bylaw was made legal and this department was given godlike permissions over millions over user accounts? From a legal standpoint, this sounds like a loophole that has been overlooked and was not reported. And it is because of this very loophole that Comcast is able to use false advertisement and constantly lie to their millions of clients, and to their thousands of employees are their “terms”.

    The employee explained that I violated internet usage law within the “Terms of Usage” agreement, which by the way, I never signed and was never shown. This document is never given to you and can only (perhaps) be obtain online..somewhere. Comcast Support, is not even aware of its existence.

    I asked the Security employee why Support was unaware of this document and he laughed and insinuated that they did not know much.

    This was puzzling to me. Why would the entire Support team by entirely unaware of Internet usage laws and regulations? Millions of users (may) be calling in with questions regarding specific internet usage. These users would ONLY receive their information from Comcast Support.

    Does this sound familiar? This happened with AOL and customers filed a class action lawsuit against them and AOL lost.

    Why is Comcast doing this? Two reasons.

    1) Certain activities are legal, although shunned by Comcast. Since Comcast cannot legally terminate services of a user for these actions they can use this bylaw to get away with many things. For example, downloading pornographic material is legal within the terms of services and terms of usage from Comcast (I could be wrong about that). If this is true, there would be tens of thousands of users with spiked usage, which may cause disruptions within the Comcast networks. The only way to punish these users is with bylaws.

    2) Other countries are able to impose bandwidth limitations within their Internet Agreements and users are allocated a certain amount of bandwidth usage per month. Any bandwidth usage over the alloted amount results in overage charges. Sort of how a cell phone works. This system has been in place for many years in Australia and has kept the bandwidth usage of the country very low in comparison to other developed (non limited) countries. US ISP’s would obviously love to impose this upon their customers. They would be able to triple their net profit by limiting bandwith usage. This would allow them to offer services to more areas without having to expand their networks exponentially, thus lowering their overall capital expenses for each corporate fiscal year. I can assure you that dirty laundry is being passed around upstairs and some people are reaping the financial benefit of this loophole.

    This is unjust and needs to be brought to the attention of the Department of Justice. I alone have no intent of personally making any sole attempt to expose Comcast for fraud, defacement, and false advertising. It would take a group to make a change. This is what happened with AOL. And AOL lost hands down.

    I have Computer Engineering and MBA degrees, which only means that within this specific area I hold expertise. And experts know when they are being scammed.

    dysfirkin, you should be very cautious regarding your bandwidth usage from now on and take the Security team call very seriously.

    I can be contacted at wodz_3k@hotmail.com. Anyone who has had related experience is urged to email me.

    Regards,

    Wodz

  3. ggee   •  

    Wodz,

    Thanks for the recap of your experience. I have been using DSL for the last few months, and haven’t had any issues of ‘bandwidth abuse’. I don’t think I will go back to Comcast once my ban is lifted, and I’ve been telling everyone about their shady tactics. A class action lawsuit might be the the way to go… anyone know a good lawyer to see if this is even worthy?

  4. busyman   •  

    Got one today..!! Haven’t called the number yet.. too busy trying to figure out WHY.. last month I downloaded fewer files than normal.. but get flagged??

  5. unlimited   •  

    They left me a message today in voicemail. As others have said, the message doesn’t sound legit but evidently it is.

    Anyhow, for those who eventually got “banned,” was it permanent or temporary? I don’t think I’m going to bother calling back.

  6. tstark   •  

    Got the message today that I have been using to much bandwidth. I called them spoke to someone right away they said I used 385GB and I needed to significantly reduce it. His name was Erik he had no idea what the average use was or how much I actually could use. This is annoying and shady because for all I know I might have already passed my “limit” and I have no way of knowing. I guess I may have to switch to Qwest DSL and that’s even worse service here in Denver. Ill keep everyone informed as to what happens. I am all for reducing my use but I wish they would at least give you an idea of what is acceptable. I have heard from 100 to 200Gb is the limit, and that is quite a bit but as more and more places make streaming whole DVD’s, music, etc. That actually seems a bit low. I guess Comcast just wants people to check their e-mail and their crappy front page. I better not watch to much TV either or they might shut that off. Just venting.

  7. Wodz   •  

    Just an update.

    I was downloading 500gb/month on avg.

    I received a 1yr suspension. I have been searching for the so-called “terms of usage” document without any luck. What a scam. Eventually they will lose in court like AOL did. And everyone affected would get financial compensations.

    Anyone who receives one of these phone calls should treat it very seriously. After my first warning, my internet was cut off without any notification a few months later. I had to make several calls before anyone even found out that my account had been flagged for abuse.

    Wodz

  8. Wodz   •  

    After speaking with Comcast Customer Service for a while I finally found the Terms of Use.

    http://www.comcast.net/terms

    Comcast High-Speed Internet Acceptable Use Policy

    Note: Comcast reserves the right to immediately terminate the Service and the Subscriber Agreement if you engage in any of the prohibited activities listed in this AUP or if you use the Comcast Equipment or Service in a way which is contrary to any Comcast policies or any of Comcast’s suppliers’ policies. You must strictly adhere to any policy set forth by another service provider accessed through the Service.

    Network, Bandwidth, Data Storage and Other Limitations

    Comcast may provide versions of the Service with different speeds and bandwidth usage limitations, among other characteristics, subject to applicable Service plans. You shall ensure that your use of the Service does not restrict, inhibit, interfere with, or degrade any other user’s use of the Service, nor represent (in the sole judgment of Comcast) an overly large burden on the network. In addition, you shall ensure that your use of the Service does not restrict, inhibit, interfere with, disrupt, degrade, or impede Comcast’s ability to deliver and provide the Service and monitor the Service, backbone, network nodes, and/or other network services.

    You further agree to comply with all Comcast network, bandwidth, and data storage and usage limitations. You shall ensure that your bandwidth consumption using the Service does not exceed the limitations that are now in effect or may be established in the future. If your use of the Service results in the consumption of bandwidth in excess of the applicable limitations, that is a violation of this Policy. In such cases, Comcast may, in its sole discretion, terminate or suspend your Service account or request that you subscribe to a version of the Service with higher bandwidth usage limitations if you wish to continue to use the Service at higher bandwidth consumption levels.

    In addition, you may only access and use the Service with a dynamic Internet Protocol (“IP”) address that adheres to the dynamic host configuration protocol (“DHCP”). You may not configure the Service or any related equipment to access or use a static IP address or use any protocol other than DHCP unless you are subject to a Service plan that expressly permits otherwise.

    ::: This basically states that whatever they deem as more than normal is subject to immediate suspension. The user is not allowed to rebuke the decision and the decision is final. This is an extremely lose bylaw and AOL had something very similar to this.

    G. Lipscomb and C. Padgett
    Comcast Cable Communications, LLC
    650 Centerton Road
    Moorestown, NJ 08057 U.S.A.
    Phone: (856) 317-7272
    Fax: (856) 317-7319
    E-mail: dmca@comcast.net

    Violation of Acceptable Use Policy

    Comcast does not routinely monitor the activity of Service accounts for violation of this AUP. However, in our efforts to promote good citizenship within the Internet community, we will respond appropriately if we become aware of inappropriate use of our Service. Although Comcast has no obligation to monitor the Service and/or the network, Comcast and its suppliers reserve the right at any time to monitor bandwidth, usage, transmissions, and content from time to time to operate the Service; to identify violations of this Policy; and/or to protect the network, the Service and Comcast users.

    Comcast prefers to advise customers of inappropriate behavior and any necessary corrective action. However, if the Service is used in a way that Comcast or its suppliers, in their sole discretion, believe violate this AUP, Comcast or its suppliers may take any responsive actions they deem appropriate. These actions include, but are not limited to, temporary or permanent removal of content, cancellation of newsgroup posts, filtering of Internet transmissions, and the immediate suspension or termination of all or any portion of the Service. Neither Comcast nor its affiliates, suppliers, or agents will have any liability for any these responsive actions. These actions are not Comcast’s exclusive remedies and Comcast may take any other legal or technical action it deems appropriate.

    Comcast reserves the right to investigate suspected violations of this AUP, including the gathering of information from the user or users involved and the complaining party, if any, and examination of material on Comcast’s servers and network. During an investigation, Comcast may suspend the account or accounts involved and/or remove or block material that potentially violates this Policy. You expressly authorize Comcast and its suppliers to cooperate with (i) law enforcement authorities in the investigation of suspected legal violations, and (ii) and system administrators at other Internet service providers or other network or computing facilities in order to enforce this Policy. This cooperation may include Comcast providing available personally identifiable information about you to law enforcement or system administrators, including, but not limited to, username, subscriber name, and other account information. Upon termination of your account, Comcast is authorized to delete any files, programs, data and e-mail messages associated with your account.

    The failure of Comcast or its suppliers to enforce this AUP, for whatever reason, shall not be construed as a waiver of any right to do so at any time. You agree that if any portion of this Policy is held invalid or unenforceable, that portion will be construed consistent with applicable law as nearly as possible, and the remaining portions will remain in full force and effect.

    You agree to indemnify, defend and hold harmless Comcast and its affiliates, suppliers, and agents against all claims and expenses (including reasonable attorney fees) resulting from you engaging in any of the prohibited activities listed in this AUP or resulting from your violation of the AUP or of any other posted Comcast policy related to the Service. Your indemnification will survive any termination of the Subscriber Agreement.

    COMCAST ABUSE POLICY – The Comcast IP Network Abuse Department is responsible for supporting and enforcing the policies set forth in the Comcast Acceptable Use Policy (“AUP”) and Comcast High-Speed Internet (“HSI”) Service Customer Agreement (“Customer Agreement”).

    # Bandwidth, Data Storage and Other limitations Use of the Comcast network infrastructure in a manner that (i) exceeds the then current bandwidth, data storage or other limitations on the Comcast High-Speed Internet service or (ii) puts an excessive burden on the limitations of the network. Examples include: Using the Comcast network to run a Web-hosting server or any other commercial enterprise.

    I would slaughter this copyright in a court of law.

    The terms of use were changed without any notification to any users.

    Revised and effective: January 2006

    Do you understand what that is saying? It’s like saying that we made an agreement on paper and you signed it in 2005 and on January 2006 I decided to make active changes to that document and demanded you to adhear to them without your knowledge and or consent. Do you know how f’in illegal that is? I want to see the document from 2004.

    Comcast is a joke. I would email DMCA but they already don’t return my calls or emails. Ooo, if only I REALLY cared about this. I would petition and build a case against them and file charges with the BBB and DoJ.

    Wodz

  9. ggee   •  

    Someone recently told me that you have to notify customers if you change the any part of the TOS or AUP and if you dont, they are breaking the law. I was a cable internet subscriber from the start, from @home to att to comcast. I was also banned for 12 months, and I dont even care when the ban is lifted, because I wont be giving them anymore of my money.

    These tactics are totally shady and more of us need to speak up and build up a class action lawsuit against them. Who is in? ;)

  10. Wodz   •  

    Did you guys hear? Verizon just got busted for doing this same thing!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now all of the customers they tossed for HSI Abuse are going to get ppppaaaaiiiiddd!

    We wont even have to put in a class action suit. They will get caught and the courts will hire a company to find users who were terminated for HSI Abuse and contact them. That way the prosecution cleans their clock

    Only a matter of time until Comcast gets pwnd as well! Then I will clean their clocks, SOB’s!

  11. Julia G   •  

    I was recently terminated by Comcast for being a bandwidth bandit. (I am a photographer and upload many GB of image files every month so it’s not surprising that I was a high bandwidth user, just frustrating that I was never told what the exact limit is.)

    Does anyone know of any user groups or forums made up of people that this has happened to? or some other way to keep apprised of any legal action against Comcast for this practice?

    Also, when my husband received the messages (the service was in his name), he was so disgusted he didn’t even bother to call back… we went ahead and switched to AT&T. But, I am assume we’re under a 12-month ban since that seems to be their MO. Any ideas whether I could skirt around that if we sign up in my name rather than his?

    Oh, one last question – what is the best way to monitor one’s own bandwidth consumption? I’d love to have the facts in black and white if I have to defend myself. :D Thanks, all – interesting discussion!!

  12. Hugo   •  

    Hi,
    the exact same thing just happened to my in-laws’s Comcast internet service yesterday. The internet connection just stopped working and after about an hour on the phone with Customer Support, we found out that the account had been terminated for HSI abuse. I was unable to get the person from the abuse department to explain anything: he refused to say how much bandwidth use was being considered excessive, refused to send a bandwidth log for this account documenting the abuse and said he had no obligations to do so; and overall he totally FIFA the descriptions made in the posts above.
    I find it *extremely* hard to believe that my in-laws used an excessive amount of bandwidth. They barely know how to use the Internet, and the main bandwidth use most likely comes from a little software that allows them to monitor remotely four video cameras in their store. I have to check on the actual bandwidth draw but given the picture quality and refresh rate, I highly doubt that it goes above a couple of hundreds kb/s.
    The only thing I suspect is that somebody could have been using their connection (i found out their wireless access point was not secured) but I don’t think Comcast is going to want to listen to that or help us confirm it. I will call them back today.

    I’ll give more details later, I have to write this from a cell phone since the acount was suspended for 12 months with no appeal.
    I also wanted to agree that their “acceptable use policy” document is a legal joke. It says that you are prohibited to use the Internet in a way that degrades other users’s ability to connect. Cable Internet service works as a shared pipe for a whole neighborhood, so by definition there is a fixed pie for a group of people. If one user starts to use the Internet, it automatically degrades the other people’s use since it takes some amount away from the total available bandwidth. This is a typical example of how their legalese makes no sense.
    I also cannot believe that they are not under an obligation to prove you abused the bandwidth, with a written, recorded statements and bandwidth logs.
    Is there a class action suit already under way?

  13. Hugo   •  

    (I meant “he totally *fits* the description”, not “he totally *FIFA* the description”).

    It looks like most people that got cut off were using upwards of 200 or 300 Gb/s, and there is no way we could have been using that much, unless somebody else was piggybacking on the wireless router…

    Also, there is no DSL in this area, so my in-laws are basically screwed. Unless there is some kind of satellite internet service, that means they’re forced back to the Stone Age dial-up connection. It is frankly outraging that Comcast can have such a monopoly and terminate people with no warning and no recourse…

  14. ggee   •  

    Julia,

    Sorry to hear that a fellow photographer got banned for using a service with no defined limits. About bandwidth monitoring… you have several options. If you have a home router, the built in firmware might already be tracking those statistics. If you have a single Microsoft Windows computer that you want to track, I use NetStat Live from AnalogX at http://www.analogx.com/contents/download/network/nsl.htm .
    On another note, ATT DSL is treating me well so far, and I hope they are doing the same for you. Happy holidays!

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  16. Jed Leslie   •  

    I’m an IT professional and just received one of Comcast’s threatening calls. The number came from 1-856-317-7272. The person on the phone told me that last month I used 480GB of bandwidth (EXTREMELY hard to believe as I was on vacation for 1.5 weeks and my computer was disconnected for service all month). I attempted to squeeze all the information out of the person on the phone as possible. They would not provide an employee number, the ability to speak to a manager, their full name, their location (beyond NJ), the actual amount of bandwidth I’m not allowed to go over, weather or not they are legally affiliated with Comcast or anything of use to me AS THEIR CUSTOMER. The only thing they said was refer to the terms of use document (which, as we all know, provides no actual limitation or specifics). On top of it all, I pay for the highest tier of bandwidth possible (8Mb/sec). Assuming I use the full allocated 8Mb for every second, it would only take me 5 and a half days to reach the 480GB which they consider reason to cut my service off. The calls are threats. They are disrespectful, uncalled for and completely out of line. As a customer, I refuse to be treated like this. I will be bringing legal action against Comcast if there is no existing class action lawsuit out there. I urge you all to stand up for your rights as consumers and do not let them threaten you.

  17. Benjamin Rickett   •  

    I got the same call from the network abuse center. He worded things extremely carefully and directed me to the terms of use page. Everything he said to me on the phone was later verified when I read through the terms of use.

    Comcast advertises no limit internet, but has an imaginary one. This guy seemed like he was either well trained, or he was an attorney.

    I have reduced my usage, but I still don’t know how much was or is too much.
    :(

    rickett@xmission.com
    Benjamin

  18. Benjamin Rickett   •  

    One more thought, I have not been disconnected, but they did threaten it if I didn’t slow things down. Many years ago I was having trouble with US West now (Qwest) and was able to go to the public service commission and they act as an advocate when dealing with the “big boys” including comcast. I plan to contact the public service commission regarding this issue.

    Benjamin

  19. Jamison England   •  

    I was canceled back in Oct 07′ for ‘excessive bandwidth’ With no explanation of how much is too much in their eyes. I see it as false advertisement. They did tell me that i downloaded around 500GB that particular month, but as i see it im allowed 1.99TB. (6mbit per second @ 30 day month = 1.99TB). But anyway, class action count me in.

  20. Maria   •  

    I was cut off and called back and informed that the next time I’d be shut off for 12 months. I immediately called Verizon to order the fiber optic FIOS line with no bandwidth limitations. I’m canceling everything with Comcast, including cable. I am also convincing ALL of my neighbors and co-workers to do the same. I hope this really ends up hurting their bottom line and reputation. I will NEVER deal with this company ever again.

  21. Paul   •  

    I was just cut off and called them and had a conversation with an extremely rude Comcast employee basically telling me what was up. He reconnected my service but said that i would suspended for a month if I exceed usage again this month. Can anyone tell me is this is Legal?

  22. Richard   •  

    I received one of these phone calls last night. I called Comcast customer service, who agreed the phone number and message ARE legit. I called the phone number, and was put on hold for about a half hour. I finally got to talk to someone, and he was surprisingly polite. He told me the internet usage is not unlimited, it is 250 GB/month. Evidently I had somehow used over 1,100 GB last month. Basically, he said if I do not reduce it below the 250 GB/month limit I would have my service disconnected for 12 months. He then told me the best way to find out how much I have currently used is to go to the comcast (dot) net website and go to Customer Central. I log on there with my Comcast Email and password (that I then had to call regular customer service to find out), and there’s an option at the top called “Users & Settings”. Click that and it will show the current usage, and if you click “Show Details” underneath it will give more information. Evidently, I’ve used 86 GB in 4 days. I asked how this was possible, and his response was basically a “I can’t say for sure, but most likely you’re using a peer-to-peer program, and it comes on automatically when you turn your computer on. If that’s so, you need to turn it off or at least slow it down” followed by a “we’ll check on you again” type statement. I offered other possibilites: Lots of gaming, web sites that stream video, 5-8 hour long video chat sessions with my girlfriend who’s currently half the country away. He said none of those would use that much bandwidth in that short of a time period.

    (Short version): Phone number is legitimate. They are telling me to slow down my internet usage and/or stop using peer-to-peer stuff (i.e. Limewire, uTorrent, et al), or risk being disconnected for a year.

  23. Wodz   •  

    Update:

    Apparently anyone can simply open a business account now which literally has a zero bandwidth limitation associated. I have tested this by pushing multiple terabytes per month without anyone blinking.

    There also appears to be more of a commercial centralization of data limitation going around that is being made more public for every ISP. Comcast is currently at 250gb/month (up/down total)

    Due to the economic turmoil Comcast now allows business services in residences and you do not even need to prove you have a business. Cancel your current service and open a new business under whatever business name you want. Do not bother paying extra for a static IP address. The internet business data speeds are faster than commercial as well. Your comparative costs should come out to around the same and there is no network bandwidth limitation.

    Back when I initially had problems (2007) and helped push this along I was using my services for business but Comcast would not provide business class services since I had a home office and apparently my small money was not good enough for them. Apparently during the recession and them laying off thousands of people, small businessmen started to matter!

    Stop getting screwed and switch to business class to avoid this 250gb limitation. I would recommend going with the 30/5 internet for the best price break. The 50/10 is a huge jump both financially and for speed but it is still extremely slow compared to Europe and parts of Asia since North American internet is a joke.

    Best

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