Deep packet inspection takes another hit as Phorm execs leave

Deep packet inspection takes another hit as Phorm execs leave

Summary: The future isn't looking too bright for those in the business of Deep Packet Inspection, notably a company called Phorm where leadership has been eroding this month.You'll recall that DPI is the technology that some ISPs were considering to scour a customer's computer for granular information so it could deliver more relevant ads.

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The future isn't looking too bright for those in the business of Deep Packet Inspection, notably a company called Phorm where leadership has been eroding this month.

You'll recall that DPI is the technology that some ISPs were considering to scour a customer's computer for granular information so it could deliver more relevant ads. Yeah, totally inappropriate big brother behavior - at least in the U.S., where lawmakers drilled ISPs about their involvement and the one of the leading companies, Nebuad, has been slapped with a class action lawsuit.

But in the U.K., a company called Phorm got the legal go-ahead from regulators there to proceed with DPI. But that doesn't mean that the company is a smashing success. British Telecom has been testing the technology and is expected to roll out ads to broadband customers next year. But, in the meantime, the financials - dwindling cash and a lack of revenue - have been plaguing the company.

Earlier this month, the company's chairman, chief operating officer and two other board members following differences with CEO Kent Ertugrul, according to Reuters. Now, the U.K.-based CEO Hugo Drayton has announced that he will leave "by mutual agreement" at the end of the year but will continue on as an advisor, according to The Register. The company's CFO, Lynne Millar, has also left.

DSLReports.com notes that the executives who left earlier this month were all U.S.-based and interested in bringing the technology to the states to fill in where Nebuad left off. I suspect they'll be drilled about concerns about privacy and wiretapping laws here, just the way Nebuad was.

Previous coverage: Does Big Brother know where you’ve been surfing? NebuAd, ISPs, named in class action lawsuit

Topics: Enterprise Software, Browser, Legal, Telcos

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4 comments
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  • Huh?

    "You?ll recall that DPI is the technology that some ISPs were considering to scour a customer?s computer for granular information so it could deliver more relevant ads."

    DPI does not touch a user's computer. It looks at the network flows (packets) that go to an from the computer. Generally it's used for security purposes, and in that area it has a lot of promise.
    ldimeglio
    • I thought the same thing - Huh?

      I think Sam Diaz is very confused here - or he didn't even look up Deep Packet Inspection on Wikipedia before writing that paragraph. DPI appliances have a very applicable use in networks that generally are "bumps in the wire", analyzing packets on a per-flow and per subscriber basis. DPI-only systems only analyze the protocol being used and do not analyze the payload of the packets (that would take a lot more processing power and slow the frame rates significantly, much slower than the 10Gb Ethernet systems in use today). These kinds of systems are very useful in managing subscribers when teamed with a BRAS using policy-based management. DPI systems by themselves do not scour your computer for granular information, as Sam Diaz ignorantly suggests.

      DPI and Policy-based management make a lot of sense, as you can prioritize certain types of traffic, like latency-sensitive video, VoIP and gaming traffic over much bulkier file-transfers and P2P protocols. You can also use it to identify customers that are infected with worms and other viruses that propagate themselves over your network (and even block traffic like the Russian Business Network and other Zombie-Spam-Relay control protocols) to better manage your network for your customers. Granted, you can also use it to isolate port 80 HTTP traffic and send it through a processor-intensive heuristic analysis algorithm like NebuAd or Phorm, but like many good technologies, they can be used for nefarious purposes if applied wrongly.
      sandy_duncans_eye
  • DPI is how the NSA monitors everyone

    DPI and extreme processing hardware is how the NSA currently abuses the law by monitoring all communications in the U.S. Big brother really is watching. The U.S. has been transformed into a police state by frightened idiots in Washington who wanted security at any cost. Freedom and privacy are gone, replaced by fear and government control. Soon those of us who publicly point out government transgressions will begin to quietly disappear. How long before we are living in a totalitarian regime hoping that some other free society steps in to free us from our tyrannical leadership?

    Allowing DPI is one more step in the overall erosion of our personal privacy and freedoms in this nation. No government entity should be allowed to perform it without constant oversight to prevent abuse. Private industry shouldn't be allowed to do it at all. That's my opinion.
    BillDem
    • Well, your most likely correct, but...

      At least half the current US population is perfectly OK with this state of the nation! America is confounded and in derision. Read your Bible! A book that the world hates! Why? Go look for yourself.

      Don't worry, it won't last very much longer.

      The solution to DPI abuse is point to point encryption. I just read a ZDNet article today that talked about various P2P encryption software for browsing and Email... DPI? Just go around it!
      RS9