from the from-my-cold-dead-hands dept.
Hackaday sounds the alarm and along with ThinkPenguin, the EFF, FSF, Software Freedom Law Center, Software Freedom Conservancy, OpenWRT, LibreCMC, Qualcomm, and others have created the SaveWiFi campaign (archive.is capture, real link is at this overloaded server) , providing instructions on how to submit a formal complaint to the FCC regarding this proposed rule. The comment period is closing on September 8, 2015.
Under the rule proposed by the FCC, devices with radios may be required to prevent modifications to firmware. All devices operating in the 5GHz WiFi spectrum will be forced to implement security features to ensure the radios cannot be modified. While prohibiting the modification of transmitters has been a mainstay of FCC regulation for 80 years, the law of unintended consequences will inevitably show up in full force: because of the incredible integration of electronic devices, this proposed regulation may apply to everything from WiFi routers to cell phones. The proposed regulation would specifically ban router firmwares such as DD-WRT, and may go so far as to include custom firmware on your Android smartphone.
A lot is on the line. The freedom to modify devices you own is a concern, but the proposed rules prohibiting new device firmware would do much more damage. The economic impact would be dire, the security implications would be extreme, and emergency preparedness would be greatly hindered by the proposed restrictions on router firmware. The FCC is taking complaints and suggestions until September 8th.
Leave a comment for the FCC via this link to the Federal Register
The Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) rules on Wi-Fi router firmware are having an effect on the market:
Network gear maker TP-Link will no longer allow people to install customized firmware on its Wi-Fi routers in the US – and the FCC is to blame. In a brief statement and FAQ posted this week, TP-Link – which is based in Shenzhen, China – said the FCC's revised rules on radio-based equipment makes user reprogrammable firmware illegal in America, and therefore it cannot sell in the US routers that can be re-flashed by their owners.
"Devices sold in the United States will have firmware and wireless settings that ensure compliance with local laws and regulations related to transmission power," TP-Link said. "As a result of these necessary changes, users are not able to flash the current generation of open-source, third-party firmware."
[...] The FCC earlier backed off a bit on the matter, but maintains it will not allow devices that can be re-flashed to operate outside authorized radio frequency bands. TP-Link, however, said that the FCC rules as they stand will not allow it to offer people the ability to reprogram their router firmware.
"The FCC requires all manufacturers to prevent users from having any direct ability to change RF [radio frequency] parameters (frequency limits, output power, country codes, etc)," TP-Link stated. "In order to keep our products compliant with these implemented regulations, TP-LINK is distributing devices that feature country-specific firmware."
El Reg reports
The open router Linux disto OpenWrt, 15.05 "Chaos Calmer" [named after a cocktail], has hit the intertubes.
One highlight of the release is an update to Version 3.18 of the Linux kernel, and security has been upgraded with ed25519 package signing support, and support for jails and hardened builds.
[The big news, however]--at least according to the project's announcement [permalink]--is a "fully writable filesystem with package management".
This, OpenWrt explains, gives users different options for installation and customisation. Instead of having to use a vendor's application and selection framework, OpenWrt can now be configured using developer-supplied applications.
"OpenWrt is the framework to build an application without having to build a complete firmware", the announcement says, while users get "full customisation [to] ... use the device in ways never envisioned".
That almost sounds like a challenge to America's Federal Communications Commission, which late in August issued a proposed rule-making that would demand Wi-Fi "lock down".
[...] [The device support for Chaos Calmer] has now passed 950 products from 159 vendors, with new devices added from Mediatek, Marvell, Broadcom, Freescale, AllWinner, and Raspberry Pi.