GottaBeSecure: Dish Network Raises Broadband Robot Army

clip_image002>I am normally not overly concerned about privacy. I am the kind of person that gladly signs up for a grocery store rewards program (surrendering all my personal information in exchange for a 3% discount on ““club card” sale items). That said, I was a little bit freaked out when I discovered my Dish Network digital video recorder (DVR) had connected to the Internet without any help from me. What’s more, it doesn’t even have an Ethernet cable or a WiFi adapter.

So how did this all happen? When I bought (uh, leased) my Dish Network ViP622 DVRâ„¢ it came with an Ethernet port on the back panel, which was label ““for future use.” Since it didn’t do anything, no use plugging it into my home network (maybe someday, I thought ). However, sometime in the middle of the night a few days ago, Dish Network downloaded new software to my DVR which enabled my DVR to connect to a broadband network. Dish Network says this will allow me to download movies to my DVR from their Internet web site and will allow for new kinds of services from Dish Network.


clip_image004But back to the scary part my DVR connected itself to my broadband Internet connection all by itself. I didn’t connect it to my home network with an Ethernet cable or install a WiFi adapter. My DVR, apparently, connected to my home network and then out to the Internet through its own power cord. How is that possible? Thanks to a technology called HomePlug or Powerline Ethernet you can network computers around your house using special Ethernet adapters that plug into your electrical wall sockets. I, in fact, have a couple of these devices in my house to network various computers that I either don’t want to run cables to or don’t have WiFi adapters for. Having a Powerline Ethernet adapter connected to my DSL modem allows these devices to talk across my home network and access the Internet.

So, as it turns out, my Dish Network ViP622 DVRâ„¢ has a built-in Powerline Ethernet adapter (unbeknownst to me). When Dish Network sent my DVR new software to allow it to connect to a broadband network, that’s exactly what my DVR did. It connected out through its Powerline Ethernet adapter (through the power cord) and received a DHCP address from my DSL router (which is attached to my electrical wiring through a Netgear wall-plugged Ethernet bridge, pictured on the right). After that, my DVR ““phoned home” to Dish Network and has been connecting back to and every few minutes ever since.

So what information is my DVR sending to Dish Network? I am sure I agreed to let my DVR do this somewhere in the fine print of my contract or end user license agreement (EULA). Nevertheless, I am now looking at all my home appliances with a suspicious eye Is my toaster oven also connecting out via the Internet and telling some bread company how often I make toast? Is my refrigerator reporting to some interested party how much filtered water I’ve been drinking or how much ice I’ve been making?


Connecting to the Internet is nothing new for mobile devices, but products that connect themselves to any available broadband connection is, perhaps, the wave of the future. If you want to find out what’s connected to your home network, familiarize yourself with your home router’s DCHP or ““active user” client list. My DVR shows up as ““unknown PC.” You may be surprised what you find—I was!