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Sunday, 7 August 2016

BBC Statement on TV Licensing Wi-Fi Detection


The newspapers and blogosphere have been abuzz with claims that TV Licensing has the ability to detect viewers of on-demand BBC iPlayer content.

Speculation is rife about how the BBC's claimed new technology might work, with several eminent scientists and engineers seizing on the principle of "packet sniffing" as a likely contender.

If true, it means that the BBC's claimed new technology, which undoubtedly cost millions to develop, could be rendered totally useless by an evader using an ethernet cable instead of a wireless connection.

The BBC Press Office has just released a statement, which seeks to clarify the "inaccurate reporting" of TV Licensing's supposed new Wi-Fi detection capabilities.

The statement reads as follows: "There has been considerable inaccurate reporting this weekend about how TV Licensing will detect people breaking the law by watching BBC iPlayer without a licence.

"While we don't discuss the details of how detection works for obvious reasons, it is wrong to suggest that our technology involves capturing data from private Wi-Fi networks."

We'd suggest that the BBC has released this statement out of concern that the public has already learnt too much. It is a damage-limitation exercise - a classic example of the BBC closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, just as it did the other week when it tried to undo the fact it had erroneously released sensitive information.

If, as media reports seem to suggest, TV Licensing's claimed new detection "magic" can be undone with a simple ethernet cable, that truly is an embarrassing state of affairs for the BBC.

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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Total Bull! - Trouble is they make this up as they go along, and brainwashed idiots will believe it as truth. - even those detector vans do not work, and have been proved time and time again.

This wifi thing will also be disproved eventually, its all bull, written in such a way it puts frighteners up the public, who are so brainwashed, if you told them the sun was square they would believe it!

Anonymous said...

Can Capita's Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) 'technology' tell the difference between say a livestream from BBC News24, as opposed to, for instance livestream from Youtube, or RT.com, aljazeera.com?

What if you have four or five windows open, and stream from several different websites SIMULTANEOUSLY? Would this muddy the waters?

Even if their 'technology' can differentiate between various livestreams, effective counter-measures exist by using a VPN service IN CONJUCTION WITH OBFSPROXY (OPENVPN+OBFSPROXY).

Several VPN service providers allow this, and such techniques are successful used by millions who reside in even nastier regimes than our own in the UK, such as Iran, China, Pakistan.

Mullvad, NordVPN, Proxy.sh, VPN.AC, are just a small example of the many providers who now provide OPENVPN+OBFSPROXY technology.

Continue to bin the letters, and use a VPN service which has a track record of defeating the Great Firewall of China (one which uses TOR's obfs technology), and continue to use the BBC iplayer (Live or not).

((It may also possible to use STUNNEL in conjunction with a VPN service to defeat DPI)).

At the end of the day they will continue to rely on the same old nasty letters sent by Capita working on behalf of the [B]ullying [B]roadcasting [C]orporation, with the phrases such as 'Interview Under Caution' and 'Police And Criminal Evidence' Act, thrown in, to fool the stupid into mistakenly believing that the TV enforcement staff have 'Police Powers'.

Whilst those with a half a brain know it's safe to continue to bin the letters, and shut the door in the face of any inspector who does pay a visit.

Admin said...

Totally agree.
Sadly this technology - in the unlikely event that it exists - will never be tested in court, just as the current detection equipment isn't at the moment.

Chris said...

For f's sake guys, please STOP. The anti-TVL lot are their own worst enemy here. Instead of questioning the claims made in the Telegraph, they've been swallowed whole and turned into paranoia and speculation. There's now a widespread perception that the BBC can somehow magically detect specific iplayer traffic inside encapsulated and encrypted wifi frames. The BBC have denied this, because it's not true, and that just fuels the paranoia - "of course they'd deny it!" I'm sure they're secretly delighted that the anti-TVL crowd are doing their propoganda work for them on this occasion.

https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/British-Broadcasting-Corporation-Television-Licence-fee-Trust-Statement-for-the-Year-Ending-31-March-2016.pdf

This is the relevant bit "The BBC’s final detection and enforcement option is its fleet of detection vans. Where the BBC still suspects that an occupier is watching live television but not paying for a licence, it can send a detection van to check whether this is the case. TVL detection vans can identify viewing on a non‐TV device in the same way that they can detect viewing on a television set. BBC staff were able to demonstrate this to my staff in controlled conditions sufficient for us to be confident that they could detect viewing on a range of non‐TV devices."

The Telegraph has picked up on that and turned it into magical detector vans which can magically peer inside encrypted networks and somehow detect application-specific traffic. They write "The Telegraph can disclose that from next month, the BBC vans will fan out across the country capturing information from private Wi-Fi networks in homes to “sniff out” those who have not paid the licence fee." Complete and utter bollocks, made up out of ignorance, and apalling dog-whistle journalism.

I believe that TVL do have detectors, and that these work by tracking relative changes in brightness and colour from any surface which is diffusely reflecting light from a screen, for example a wall or curtains. This stream of fluctuations can easily be captured from a distance with a small scope for, say 30 seconds, and sent to the back-end for processing. There, the stream can be compared with the last couple of hours' worth of application-generated stream data for all available channels, looking for a match. That will reveal what channel was being displayed on the screen without ever seeing the picture, and can identify whether it was live or not, as per the TVL definition of live.

Since this would work equally well with "non-TV devices" (in practice screen size would play a part, but in a controlled demo it wouldn't) I suspect that is what is being referred to. How TVL expand the processing to match a catch-up programme and log a "hit" is a separate matter and irrelevant to the wording in the report. The Telegraph has conflated the two and then misreported the lot for good measure. Every time someone speculates on how the BBC might detect iplayer specific application traffic from inside encrypted wifi frames it throws fuel on the fire started by the Telegraph. I suspect it's already too late to stop this monster, and people will now for years claim that the BBC can do this, quoting ropey misunderstood networking ideas, read somewhere on a forum, to support it.

I've already seen people talking about using a VPN for everything, screw you BBC! Or disabling wifi, haha take that BBC! They couldn't have had a better outcome if they'd worked on this level of user-inconvenience themselves, and let's face it they're masters at that.

I'm very much anti-TVL and I don't want to see the anti-TVL community unwittingly help to create a modern day iplayer Columbo propoganda advert and hand it to the BBC on a silver platter, thanks to the Telegraph's piss-poor reporting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tq7luWzbouo

Chris