Cisco's ugly bait and switch

Can a network security vendor that betrays its customers ever be trusted again?

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The devil you don't know
These cases highlight the lag between regulation and technology. Prior to the past decade or so, the idea of a manufacturer purposefully breaking a product after purchase in order to spy on you and profit from that information was so outlandish, there was no need for concern. We're now living in a world where it could easily be done clandestinely.

In Cisco's case, the company opted for a public and amazingly ham-handed reveal, enraging the customers who noticed immediately. Even so, it's guaranteed that most owners of these routers remain blissfully unaware. The next company to try a similar action may not be so overt.

There are those who might argue that Google and others track your actions too, and you essentially agree to it by using their services. True -- Google and other tracking networks can see some sites you visit, but they cannot see everything you do on the Internet. On the other hand, your router sees all: every packet, every protocol, every detail.

The prospect of a large multinational corporation surreptitiously installing spyware on your router is highly disturbing; that this same company produces a vast amount of the network hardware in use throughout corporate infrastructures the world over makes it worse. While I don't think this consumer-level chicanery will have a significant impact on Cisco's corporate market, it's definitely put a dent in the company's reputation. Trust, once lost, is tough to regain.

The fact is, customers purchased a Cisco security device to protect their computers and information from harm -- too bad it couldn't protect them from Cisco itself.

This story, "Cisco shows true face in ugly bait and switch," was originally published at Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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