Cisco Connect Cloud Controversy

CiscCisco Connect Cloudo Connect Cloud is a service offered by Cisco for some of their Linksys routers. It gives you the ability to manage your Linksys router through the Cisco website by means of “The Cloud”. Everything needs to mention “The Cloud” these days for marketing purposes, but it’s really unclear what advantages such a system has. Do they think that I want to change my router’s wireless signal strength while on vacation in Bora Bora? Is there anything that can be done with such a system that can’t be done simply by turning on Remote Administration in the router’s web interface? I don’t think so. If you say it’s more secure, why not just build better security into the web interface?

On the other hand, there are reasons to not like Cisco Connect Cloud. For one, it puts the command and control over a whole lot of sensitive device into a single place. If that place ever becomes compromised in any way, we’re all in for a world of pain. It will be a very simple way to perform a Hack of Mass Destruction.

For some reason, Cisco decided to tie this feature into its service to automatically update the router’s firmware. There’s no reason why they should be tied together – it’s probably just Cisco’s way of gently pushing you towards using Connect Cloud. But they went further. In order to opt into the Connect Cloud service, you must agree to their Terms and Conditions. They’re pretty interesting, they include

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.

Very interesting. Our first reaction: how is any of this Cisco’s business? They don’t want me to download copyrighted material? Okay, fair enough, but there are laws against that and ISPs have been on the lookout for such violations for a while now. No one needs Cisco to be in the copyright protection business. Pornographic materials?? Let’s remember something –  if you posses pornographic media, your status changes as you change your location on the planet. Stand in one place, you’re 100% legal, elsewhere on the planet you’ll be arrested, even elsewhere, you’re in REALLY serious trouble. Why is my router vendor getting involved in telling me what I can and can’t do?

Fortunately, Cisco has since changed their policy and will allow automatic updates even if you don’t use their cloud service. They’ve also made clear that they’re not trying to censor our internet usage. They’ve said

Cisco Connect Cloud and Cisco Linksys routers do not monitor or store information about how our customers are using the Internet and we do not arbitrarily disconnect customers from the Internet.  The Cisco Connect Cloud service has never monitored customers’ Internet usage, nor was it designed to do so, and we will clarify this in an update to the terms of service.

Let’s hope that in the future, they give more thought to what their Terms and Conditions say.