Hacking the Cable Modem
Alright, let’s get this out of the way right now—Hacking the Cable Modem is not a Hacks book. If you pick this book up thinking you want to squeeze a little extra out of the cable modem the Comcast guy just installed, put the book down and walk away. Hacking the Cable Modem is aimed at people who are willing to get into the guts of their cable modem and override the restrictions put in place by the cable companies. The sample chapter should give you a decent idea of the book’s target audience; it’s entitled “Building a Console Cable.”
If you’re still here after my clarification and still interested in taking a whack at your cable modem, then you’re in the right place. Before going too deep into what the book offers, though, I want to mention two caveats. First, I did not attempt any of these hacks. I didn’t expect the book to be as in-depth as it turned out to be, and I wasn’t comfortable with the concept of modifying my leased cable modem. Second, most of the techniques discussed in the book are examined from a Windows-centric viewpoint. With some research, you could probably replicate some of the techniques on OS X, but others might require temporarily switching over to Windows.
The book’s 23 chapters basically fit into three different sections: background, basics of hacking, and hacking specific modems. The background section covers the evolution of the cable modem. This starts with the earliest days of cable Internet access, when pretty much every type of cable modem used a different technique for connecting the user to the Internet. As a result, users pretty much needed to use an ISP-provided cable to ensure a reliable connection to the Internet. The history continues through the development and evolution of the DOCSIS standard, which established the protocols for ISP and cable modem producers and opened up a variety of modem options for end-users.
The background section also covers the history of cable modem hacking. This includes the birth of these practices and the author’s extensive experience with hacking cable modems. Personally, I found most of this material a bit dry, though I can understand why some people would want to have this information, particularly those people interested in modifying the guts of their cable modems.
Jumping ahead, the book ends with four chapters on hacking specific cable modems. Consider this the “cheat-sheet” section of the book. If you desired, you could use the book as a buying guide for your next cable modem purchase. You probably don’t want to perform these hacks on a leased cable modem, so you may as well buy a modem for which you’ve got instructions.
One of the dangers of referencing particular products is that the material can rapidly become dated as companies update their product lines. Hacking the Cable Modem’s middle section, related to the basics of hacking, helps to alleviate this concern. Over the course of 13 chapters, DerEngel delves into information and techniques necessary to understand cable modem hacking. Most of the information is presented within the context of hacking a Motorola SURFboard, but DerEngel provides enough information that a motivated hacker can adapt the information to another cable modem. The only concern I have about obsolescence is whether changes to the DOCSIS standards may invalidate some of the information in the book.
Although Hacking the Cable Modem was not the book I hoped, I still found it to be an interesting reference. If you own a cable modem and are interested in breaking out the soldering iron, I definitely recommend checking out the book. It’s a little dense at times and you definitely need to understand what you are doing, but the book definitely feels like a comprehensive reference on getting the most out of your cable modem.