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[Q] AT&T Detected Tether Apps?

OP willp2

23rd February 2013, 09:15 PM   |  #1  
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So today I got the letter in the mail from AT&T telling me that I need to stop tethering or that I'll lose my old grandfathered in unlimited data plan and be moved to plan that supports tethering and a data cap.

I called the number they gave me to get some info on what they were going to say they told me very generally that they have detected tethering and that if I don't stop by the end of the month, they will bump my plan. She gave me a laundry list of things that are considered tethering, from wifi hotspots to getting internet access for a gaming console.

I pressed very hard to find out what exactly I have done that they register as tethering more than anything I wanted specifics. She told me several times that they couldn't give out specifics as that is proprietary information. When I suggested that this might just them trying to force me onto a more expensive plan since they were unable to give me any proof that I had been tethering, she paused and said that she's wait while I look in my phone for tethering apps. I told her I don't have any tethering apps and she told me to look again. After some back and forth, she told me that the mere existence of a tethering app on the phone was considered tethering.

Beyond the issue of tethering at the moment I'm bothered that they even know what apps are on my phone and that they might use the existence of an app as justification to alter my service.

Has anyone heard of the carrier looking at apps like this before? From a privacy standpoint, I'd like to see if there is some way to keep their nose out of my business. Anyone know of a way to keep AT&T out of my phone?
23rd February 2013, 09:47 PM   |  #2  
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If you were to have a tethering app on your phone (and of course, you don't), what would it be? i.e., if AT&T can detect certain apps, what, do you suppose (without admitting anything incriminating), are the apps they're talking about?

I can't imagine they'd be crazy enough to surreptitiously audit the content of a subscriber's phone, and then tacitly admit to it with this sort of inquiry. But I could imagine that they can detect tethering "signatures" via snooping network traffic. For example, if you tether to a PC and use that to browse the internet, the user agent will look different than when the phone's browser is being used. Or if you left a tethering session running and they saw your phone pulling down updates for Microsoft Windows, that'd sure be a dead giveaway. There's little if any reason to pull anything off Windows Update with a phone. They could maybe get away with detecting that sort of thing since they wouldn't be looking at data content, just whether or not the data source was consistent with a smartphone or not...
23rd February 2013, 09:49 PM   |  #3  
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Re: [Q] AT&T Detected Tether Apps?
Quote:
Originally Posted by willp2

So today I got the letter in the mail from AT&T telling me that I need to stop tethering or that I'll lose my old grandfathered in unlimited data plan and be moved to plan that supports tethering and a data cap.

I called the number they gave me to get some info on what they were going to say they told me very generally that they have detected tethering and that if I don't stop by the end of the month, they will bump my plan. She gave me a laundry list of things that are considered tethering, from wifi hotspots to getting internet access for a gaming console.

I pressed very hard to find out what exactly I have done that they register as tethering more than anything I wanted specifics. She told me several times that they couldn't give out specifics as that is proprietary information. When I suggested that this might just them trying to force me onto a more expensive plan since they were unable to give me any proof that I had been tethering, she paused and said that she's wait while I look in my phone for tethering apps. I told her I don't have any tethering apps and she told me to look again. After some back and forth, she told me that the mere existence of a tethering app on the phone was considered tethering.

Beyond the issue of tethering at the moment I'm bothered that they even know what apps are on my phone and that they might use the existence of an app as justification to alter my service.

Has anyone heard of the carrier looking at apps like this before? From a privacy standpoint, I'd like to see if there is some way to keep their nose out of my business. Anyone know of a way to keep AT&T out of my phone?

Are you on stock AT&T rom?

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23rd February 2013, 10:34 PM   |  #4  
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While I hope for their own sake that they aren't auditing software on the devices, I suppose they could be watching what people download. For instance, some tethering apps are just not available in the Play store if you are coming from AT&T or Sprint. I could see that perhaps in one of the many TOS agreements I clicked OK on without reading there was something that said they could sniff around my phone.

I assumed they would be looking at traffic, but after being quite vague over and over again, she was very specific about a tethering app. Agreed that as soon as a PC goes online it creates all kinds of traffic that wouldn't look like a smart phone.

I am using the stock / not rooted AT&T ROM at this point. I normally root right away, but I haven't really had a need on this one.

I would root and use a different ROM if I felt like it would keep their noses out of my junk. Even if I was tethering, I'm not using a crazy amount of data so I find the whole thing pretty silly.

Now I am thinking that if they do change my tethering plan without my permission, I have to assume that I can break my contract if I want and move elsewhere. Just not sure where I could get another Note II with unlimited data at a decent price.
23rd February 2013, 10:39 PM   |  #5  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willp2

While I hope for their own sake that they aren't auditing software on the devices, I suppose they could be watching what people download. For instance, some tethering apps are just not available in the Play store if you are coming from AT&T or Sprint. I could see that perhaps in one of the many TOS agreements I clicked OK on without reading there was something that said they could sniff around my phone.

I assumed they would be looking at traffic, but after being quite vague over and over again, she was very specific about a tethering app. Agreed that as soon as a PC goes online it creates all kinds of traffic that wouldn't look like a smart phone.

I am using the stock / not rooted AT&T ROM at this point. I normally root right away, but I haven't really had a need on this one.

I would root and use a different ROM if I felt like it would keep their noses out of my junk. Even if I was tethering, I'm not using a crazy amount of data so I find the whole thing pretty silly.

Now I am thinking that if they do change my tethering plan without my permission, I have to assume that I can break my contract if I want and move elsewhere. Just not sure where I could get another Note II with unlimited data at a decent price.


Also make sure you DONT use internet explorer that is a NO NO for tethering with AT&T they see the browser agent and KNOW that`s not possible without tethering.
23rd February 2013, 11:44 PM   |  #6  
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Re: [Q] AT&T Detected Tether Apps?
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Originally Posted by hyelton

Also make sure you DONT use internet explorer that is a NO NO for tethering with AT&T they see the browser agent and KNOW that`s not possible without tethering.

Prove I haven't just changed my agent string to make the stupid app server think I'm on a windows desktop and using IE.


One of my friends pinged me 2 days ago. He got the friendly text stating tethering isn't allowed without a tether plan. No tethering on his part, just a lot of vevo traffic.
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24th February 2013, 03:48 AM   |  #7  
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You could setup a linux machine at home and keep that running. Setup an SSH tunnel from your phone to your home linux box and tunnel all the tethering traffic through that. To AT&T that would just look like an encrypted ssh connection.
24th February 2013, 06:28 PM   |  #8  
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Re: [Q] AT&T Detected Tether Apps?
You could also run a Windows virtual machine on your phone. It's already been done.
24th February 2013, 06:32 PM   |  #9  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darkshado

You could also run a Windows virtual machine on your phone. It's already been done.

That wouldn't help. FIrst, I don't think there are any hardware network drivers for windows for the Note II, so it wouldn't be able to get internet. Second, If he did have internet, he would still run into the same issue of unencrypted traffic being sniffed by at&t. Sure he could setup an ssh tunnel from windows, but at that point it's just silly to run windows on the note just to encrypt traffic.
24th February 2013, 07:08 PM   |  #10  
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I assume one could use any VPN like the SSH tunnel or something like hotspot shield or similar as long as all traffic is forced through the tunnel and there really would be no way for anyone to tell what you are doing.

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