A hacked modem can allow you to get broadband Internet access without paying for it. But selling hacked modems is not, in itself, an illegal act, because there are actual educational purposes for the devices. But Thomas Swingler of CableHack.net, a site that sells hacked modems, has been slapped with a lawsuit, despite posting a disclaimer on his site that his company does not encourage its users to use the modems illegally.
It all boils down to a matter of intent, and this lawsuit alleges that--despite CableHack's disclaimer--Swingler is not condemning the illegal use of his products. In an online chat with a confidential informant, Swingler allegedly stated that "the modem steals the internet." He also commented on other potential uses for the hacked modems: "U could do mad fraud off it/and when they go to look up the mac/its someone else's account."
Both of these statements sound more like a sales pitch than a condemnation of the illegal activities. Admittedly, the comments are taken without any context, but it would be easy to assume that Swingler did not have educational intentions in mind.
Further hurting Swingler's case is the fact that CableHack.net displays customer testimonials from people who have successfully stolen Internet access using the hacked modems. The testimonials claim to be from satisfied customers, and could be used to show that stealing Internet access is the primary purpose of the hacked modems.
The modems in question are hacked in such a way that a user can set their own MAC address. The MAC address is a number assigned to each modem and is how an Internet service provider locates its modems and users. As Swingler himself allegedly stated, this modification would allow someone to steal Internet access while the ISP assumes that the MAC address is from one of its existing customers.
Ironically, Swingler would be able to get away with selling the hacked modems if he had just kept quiet rather than bragging about how they can be used. Site TCNiSO also sells hacked and modified modems, but does so from an educational and hobbyist stance, with strong condemnation of the use of modems for illegal purposes.