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Fortunately, there’s an easy way to protect yourself.
We’ve known for years that the company stealthily manipulates its customer’s web pages, injecting pop-up ads directly into their browser to alert them of copyright infringements and potential security breaches. But last year, one customer was bombarded with Comcast pop-ups telling them to buy a new modem. Comcast claimed it wasn’t trying to upsell the customer, instead, the alert—with its big red “Action Needed” warning—was an “educational tool” letting them know their perfectly good modem was going to become outdated.
It now appears those complaints have fallen on deaf ears. Topping Reddit Monday morning is a link to Comcast’s Help and Support forum where one customer describes how the ISP added more than 400 lines of code to their web browser to pitch a new modem.
The user later explains that a “level-2” support member at Comcast said their modem was “perfectly fine” and didn’t need an upgrade. Previous reports say there’s no way for Comcast to disable these ads, which, unlike targeted ads you see from other companies, are added by injecting unsolicited code directly into your browser, “This is completely unacceptable to me and what’s worse is that Comcast provides no option to opt out of this horrific practice,” the furious customer wrote.
A Comcast Help and Support forum member tagged as an “official employee” responded to bham3dman’s complaints, explaining the pop-up is part of the company’s “web notification system” that has been in place for years. The system’s detailed design page claims it was meant to send customers “near-immediate notifications,” to warn them of malware or virus infection. The document says nothing about modem upgrades.
The apparent spokesperson also claimed the pop-up isn’t an attempt to upsell a modem, but a notification telling users their hardware is nearing the end of its life. If that’s true, the warning may be used to notify customers that their aging hardware presents a security risk. Still, Reddit users, who recently united against the proposal to end net neutrality, are enraged that Comcast didn’t first try to reach out using conventional methods.
It doesn’t appear the use of these ads is linked to the impending death of net neutrality rules, though it’s understandably alarming for Comcast customers nonetheless. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to protect yourself: Add to your browser the HTTPS Anywhere extension, which automatically switches sites from the unsecured HTTP protocol to the more secure HTTPS.
We’ve reached out to Comcast to learn more and will update this article if we hear back.
Phillip Tracy is a former technology staff writer at the Daily Dot. He's an expert on smartphones, social media trends, and gadgets. He previously reported on IoT and telecom for RCR Wireless News and contributed to NewBay Media magazine. He now writes for Laptop magazine.