On Tuesday 50,000 Comcast subscribers in Houston found that their modems were suddenly broadcasting a Wi-Fi hotspot that could be accessed by any Comcast customer — without their consent, the Houston Chronicle reports.
The customers affected were using the Arris Touchstone Telephony Wireless Gateway Modem, a basic modem generally provided by cable providers. Although 50,000 units were activated yesterday, Comcast plans to bring that number to 150,000 by the end of the month.
These activations are part of Comcast’s plan to create eight million hotspots in the United States by the end of 2014 using a combination of outdoor, business and residential hotspots.
Comcast has assured customers that it has allotted extra capacity to avoid slowing down home connections. It also stated that the public signal is entirely separate from customers’ private Wi-Fi network.
However, TechCrunch has expressed the concern that hackers may be able to breach this separation, opening up the possibility of both compromising data and allowing the hacker to pin illegal online activity on the unsuspecting owner of the modem.
Although the hotspots are activated without prior consent, customers do have the ability to opt out through Comcast’s website once the network has been turned on.