Customer’s of Comcast’s Xfinity broadband service are slowly coming to discover that their new in-home routers are being used as wi-fi hotspots for any other Comcast customer within range of the router. Comcast introduced the service in mid-2013, but seems to have not taken great pains to ensure that its customers understood exactly what the service was. Many consumers just assumed when Comcast said “hotspot” that it meant they would now have wireless internet in their home. The new routers do provide that feature, but additionally they are also programmed by default with another wi-fi network labeled “xfinitywifi” which can be accessed by any current Comcast account login and password.
What this means for you:
If you are a new Xfinity subscriber, or had your Comcast router replaced in the past 6 months, your new equipment may be providing this hotspot. Anyone with a Comcast account can use your hotspot to access the internet. Keep in mind, this doesn’t require them to actually be the account owner – all any wi-fi device needs is that account’s login and password. Assuming they know it, anyone can use that login information anywhere an Xfinity hotspot exists.
Regardless of how savvy you are with your home equipment, you can’t disable this feature yourself – you have to call Comcast to have them turn it off. According to Comcast, the impact on your bandwidth of providing this hotspot should be minimal, and is helping them provide more accessible wireless bandwidth to other Comcast customers in your neighborhood. The question you need ask yourself is whether you feel its appropriate for Comcast to use equipment in your house as an extension of services provided to people you don’t know.
It’s still too early to tell whether having a hotspot on your home network is inherently less secure, but think of it like this: Imagine your property sat in front of a popular amusement park. The amusement park has asked if they can provide entrance to their park that requires customers to traverse your property via a secured walkway. They promise they will keep your property completely safe, private and separate. Would you allow that walkway?