The FCC’s latest controversy is over a proposed set of changes to the rules surrounding Wi-Fi routers, in theory to make them more secure, and less easy to abuse. But a group of big-name internet experts would beg to differ.
The FCC’s regulations are mostly designed to make sure that any radio-emitting device — including the Wi-Fi routers lingering under everyone’s desk — only broadcast on the frequencies that they’re supposed to. The rule change was sparked by a complaint from airports, who found modified equipment was tampering with weather radar at aiports.
In order to prevent those kinds of modifications., the FCC’s proposals would limit the extent to which users can mess with the software on their routers, including preventing loading popular third-party firmwares like DD-WRT. Naturally, privacy-minded home tinkerers around the world freaked out.
In an open letter filed with the FCC, the group has put forwards an alternative framework for how routers would be regulated, with a focus on security and openness. Their rules would require router manufacturers to post source code online, update it against security flaws frequently, and face tough FCC sanctions if they failed to comply.
Those rules would go a long way towards locking down Wi-Fi routers — which, as it currently stands, are frighteningly insecure. All your internet traffic flows through them, but the default passwords tend to be nothing more than ‘admin’, and you probably last updated yours using Windows XP.