Cisco Connect Cloud chaos

Summary:Cisco added some features to its high-end Linksys router firmware and some over-the-top language to its end-user license while badly mishandling a firmware update.

CiscoConnect
Cisco locks users out of their routers, requires invasive cloud service, another screamed Cisco’s cloud vision: Mandatory, monetized, and killed at their discretio. I don't think it's that bad, but it is bad.

Here are the facts. Cisco has been automatically updating the firmware of its high-end consumer Linksys routers: E2700, E3500, or E4500 over the last few days. That's annoying, but as anyone who uses firmware-based equipment knows, it happens. In particular, these models all shipped with the “Automatic Firmware Update” option turned “on” by default. I happened to know about it because I use the Linksys E4500 in my own office.

This wasn't just your usual firmware update to close a security hole or two and add some minor features. No, this also introduced the Cisco Cloud Service. Here's where Cisco made its first mistake. After the invisible update, to get to your router, you had no choice but to set up a Cisco Cloud Service account.

No one, but no one, goes to their router unless they have a network problem. This is Not when you want to discover that you can't address the problem, until you've set up an entirely new account over the Internet. Really smooth move Cisco!

Then, Cisco  used some really lame language in its Connect Cloud license.

When you use the Service, we may keep track of certain information related to your use of the Service, including but not limited to the status and health of your network and networked products; which apps relating to the Service you are using; which features you are using within the Service infrastructure; network traffic (e.g., megabytes per hour); internet history; how frequently you encounter errors on the Service system and other related information (“Other Information”)

Oh yeah, like I want Cisco following my every footstep on the Web. Cisco has backed off this clause. It's no longer in the license. But, why was it in their in the first place?

But in the Cisco Connect Cloud terms of servic (ToS), you'll still find this beauty:

As a condition of your use of the Service, you agree that your use of the Service in accordance with the terms and conditions of this Agreement is permitted under and will comply with the applicable laws of the country where you use the Service. You agree not to use or permit the use of the Service: (i) to invade another's privacy; (ii) for obscene, pornographic, or offensive purposes; (iii) to infringe another's rights, including but not limited to any intellectual property rights; (iv) to upload, email or otherwise transmit or make available any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials, spam, junk mail or any other form of solicitation; (v) to transmit or otherwise make available any code or virus, or perform any activity, that could harm or interfere with any device, software, network or service (including this Service); or (vi) to violate, or encourage any conduct that would violate any applicable law or regulation or give rise to civil or criminal liability.

Excuse me? What the heck are you thinking of, Cisco!? This reads like the ToS for a Web host provider, not a service to help me run my router. I'm not hosting porn or sending spam from my router. Maybe someday Cisco Connect Cloud will double as a Web host and an e-mail service provider, but as it is I read this as a vastly over-reaching invasion of my privacy.

Cisco quickly realized that it had a problem on its hands. On June 29th, before most of the uproar began about the change, Cisco's Brett Wingo, VP and general manager of home networking, wrote, “We apologize that the opt-out process for Cisco Connect Cloud and automatic updates was not more clear in this product release, and we are developing an updated version that will improve this process. While we hope this reminder of our standard company practices will allay any concerns, customers who do not wish to establish a Cisco Connect Cloud account and would prefer to revert back to the traditional Linksys setup and management software can do so by calling the Linksys customer support line at 1-800-326-7114. One of our agents will walk you through the process.”

Ironically, so far I like the update itself. It lets me easily set up such services as giving my Internet video and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) priority over other traffic and, with Cisco Connect Cloud Mobile App, I can manage my router from my Android smartphone or an iPhone. These are good additions.

But, the way it was handled and the language that was used in the license!? Come on Cisco, dump the language and let us run our routers without needing to go through your “cloud.”

Oh, and last but not least, there's really nothing “cloud-”like about these new services.  Essentially, it just adds some remote services to the router. If you'd been using a business-class router or using an alternative firmware such as Tomato or OpenWRT, you've had access to most of the “new” features for years without any annoying license agreements.

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Topics: Cisco, Networking

About

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, aka sjvn, has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was the cutting edge, PC operating system; 300bps was a fast Internet connection; WordStar was the state of the art word processor; and we liked it.His work has been published in everything from highly technical publications... Full Bio

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