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How To My recent cable TV odyssey (1 Viewer)

Max Taxable

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It all started three weeks ago, and was solved finally, four days ago now. I must tell you all about it. Long post to please bear with me.

I have Suddenlink cable and have had for going on 15 years now and with nary a problem. Oh, I've gone through a couple of set-top boxes but that's all. No outages or other such issues. Meanwhile on local facebook groups I'm constantly reading about people and their problems with the service, feeling fortunate not to be among them. Then the goofiest thing started happening.

For several nights in a row, starting shortly after dark, I can get no TV channels! Internet is fine, but not getting reception usually starting with the higher tier channels but then like a virus, eventually it's all of them. Meanwhile on my antenna I am still getting my 34 channels there, crystal clear. So it's not storms or some kind of network outage causing it. And then as if like clockwork, around 1:30am or so everything comes back on and all is fine.

Well, during the sixth night of this I finally decided to report it. I went into their chat feature on their website because I'd read this is how to get faster and better service from them. The chat went pretty well, the tech listened and wasn't having me check my wires or connections, or my inside coax. Wasn't trying to blame me, by default like you often see. He seemed to be competent but could not answer my question, why is this only happening at night. Anyhow after some time he told me to reboot the box and all should be good. I did, and it was. He said my memory had been scrambled and he'd reconfigured my box. End of chat.

I should have noted the time, however as the next night here we go again, shortly after dark I am losing my channels until finally, no reception. I'm back in chat and I notice the prior chat had ended at guess what? - 1:45am. Right when this thing self-fixes anyway.

This next tech was just a total idjit. Wanted me to check my connections, my wires, my indoor coax. And I'm like, "what, these things get tired at night and wanna take a nap? This stuff works perfectly ALL day and only starts this problem at NIGHT. The cables and wires are not suddenly unionized and in fact don't even know it's dark out!" Couldn't get anything but nonsense out of this guy, noticed the time was now 1:30, and waited for sure enough, the thing fixed itself. I informed this "tech" of this fact, and closed the chat.

Next night, same thing. Like clockwork, soon after dark I start losing channels. Good thing I wear very short hair or I would have been pulling it out. I wait and don't go back in the chat for this incident. Just satisfied myself watching TV over the antenna. Sure enough, shortly after 1: 30, I have my cable channels back.

Next day I get back in chat before the channels disappear, and explain this all to yet another tech, who says I should just switch out the box. Again I am thinking, "what, the box gets tired at night and wants to take a nap?" But, I comply. Next day during their business hours, I go and switch out the box. That night? Around 7:30? Boom. Channel reception erodes then disappears. (More in next post.)
 

Max Taxable

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(Continued) Long story short, after changing out the box to appease yet another chat tech, and finding my problem still persists, and just muddling along with OTA TV every night and researching cutting the cable, one night in bed I was thinking this HAD to be human activity. It's on a schedule. Must be some new dude working at an area relay station? I dunno. I slept on it.

Next night now my internet is slow! I can't even watch YouTube videos without it buffering! I reboot my modem and the router, and all is well.

Next night here we go again - this time my Firestick has lost signal! I reboot the modem and router, and all is good - for about 30 minutes. Then buffering, then lost connection again.

I go back into the studio to reboot everything once again, and it hits me. The router is a WI-FI router! Wonder what would happen if I mashed the little button on top that toggles the radio off and on? So I do. Can't use any firestick now, so I just start browsing the web on my PC, reading whatever I can about my problem.

My lady comes in about 20 minutes later saying the cable TV channels are back! We enjoy an evening watching our favorite shows, and then hit the hay.

Next day I try to use my phone for web browsing. No wi-fi. Oh yeah, I'd turned the radio off. I turn it back on. Then around 7:30 that evening? Start losing cable TV channels. Just for laughs I go and turn the wi-fi radio off again. Channels come back!

I have a leech nearby. A pig who's been using my wi-fi! Who's been sucking away all my bandwidth! Gotta be! So I leave the antenna off for a couple of days. And have no more problems with my cable service!

I log into the router as admin and start investigating. I identify all of my devices using the log, getting their MAC addresses. Then I check access logs, and sure enough there are two devices in the log that aren't mine. And their time logged matches the schedule of my problems. I clear the logs.

I have a new neighbor who moved in nearby, into a rent house in the area. The schedule of my problems fits his work schedule to a T. That's gotta be the parasite. Problems started about a week after he moved in. The parasite kills the host in nature, and it is true in tech as well.

I enable access control in my wi-fi router, whitelisting only my devices. Have had no problems since and no other devices are logged except my own. I cut his water off. Dude now is going to have to pay to play. The pig.

It wasn't suddenlink, it wasn't the service, it wasn't my wires or my cables. It was this parasite leeching me. The moral of the story is, SECURE YOUR WI-FI PEOPLE.

That is all.
 

David Norman

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First, I'm glad you found the problem

Did you have an open public WiFi network with no password protection at all? Unless I'm misunderstanding I think the loss of TV and slow internet woudl be the best case scenario

Or was he actually hacking into your protected WiFi system somehow - did the previous neighbor have access to your network password and maybe passed it to the new guy?
 

Max Taxable

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Did you have an open public WiFi network with no password protection at all?
No, I should have clarified that and thank you for asking. Thank you for reading too. I have a great password and always have had and never gave it to a soul. Not even my Lady knows it. And a separate even better password for the admin side. Further investigation showed the pig used a brute force password cracker and it took him about a week to crack it. I've enabled protections for that, in the router. Even though now with the whitelist, only my devices even get to enter any password.
Unless I'm misunderstanding I think the loss of TV and slow internet woudl be the best case scenario
I even did an experiment. I had one TV connected solely to the cable box, and another solely to my Firestick. Sure enough, when I would stream a 4K movie on the Firestick while my Lady played a heavy bandwidth video game on her computer, while I had my PC streaming youtube, the TV connected to the box would start losing channels then eventually, all. I was able to totally replicate the problem. Because it's all about bandwidth even if all you want to do is watch AEW Wrestling at 7PM Central, on TNT.
 

David Norman

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Glad I was misunderstanding the issue, but even worse in dealing with a pretty smart pig apparently.

It always shocks me to run a scan when I'm in a busy place and find multiple open paths -- though certainly less often than 4-5 years ago so it's almost hard to believe someone needs to put that much effort to break into your system (old joke - you don't need to be able outrun the bear, just your friend). My nephews were always are jumping on other peoples signal like it's no big deal to avoid using their cell data -- they weren't downloading or playing games, usually just running a quick internet search or directions or restaurant menu type things, but they virtually never failed to find horse to ride.

Once a few years ago I suspected I had an intruder, but never could trace things down. Just changed my password and strengthened it substantially at the same time -- actually I changed the router password 2-3 times just to be sure and played rolling wifi passwords every few days for a few weeks. I'm still not sure if anyone was there or just another glitch in my local Cable System. That was when I only had 4-5 wifi devices since most of the important things were wired and it wasn't that hard to change them. Now I probably have 20 individual items that I'd have to update since so many newer things don't even have an ethernet port anymore.
 

John Dirk

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For several nights in a row, starting shortly after dark, I can get no TV channels! Internet is fine, but not getting reception usually starting with the higher tier channels but then like a virus, eventually it's all of them.
Great persistence and troubleshooting!!! This statement initially confused me but I'm now thinking you meant wired Internet was fine all along. That's a crazy problem and I'm glad you got it all sorted. MAC filtering is the best way to secure a network, even though it requires a bit more attention as visitors come and go, needing access for their devices.
 

Max Taxable

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This statement initially confused me but I'm now thinking you meant wired Internet was fine all along.
At the time of that early "troubleshooting" step, "fine" is a pretty loose term. I just checked to see if I could load web pages first on my phone, then on my PC. I didn't run a speed test or anything like that. Didn't try youtube or any streaming. I didn't think of internet problems until I encountered them. Some investigator, amirite?
pretty smart pig
Don't have to be very smart in my eyes, to use a brute force password cracker. I don't give this pig credit for anything other than being a pig and a parasite. lol
 

David Norman

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You just had to go and trigger my paranoia. You have to know I'm the type that puts tape over the phone/webcams and waves goodnight at the motion detection and smoke/fire/CO detectors in the house. At least I quit saying GoodNight Big Brother a few years ago when the dog started looking at me a bit odd.

Spent a lot of last night and most of this afternoon tracking all my MAC Addresses of various computers, phones, and devices in the house. Only ended up with 30-something -- about 2/3 wired, 1/3 wireless though only about dozen of those are always on. Turned on the MAC Filtering with Block New Device settings.

I don't have a lot of visitors though when my kids visit I guess I'll have to add their phone/computer/watches to the OK list.
I couldn't find anything in the logs showing unknows so probably good. I do know there is some ex/current CIA computer IT guy whose lived in the neighborhood for a dozen years so nothing triggering knowing that.

I had been considering a new router, but after this I think I'm good for awhile just so I don't have to do it all over again.

FWIW, I'll pretend I've never heard of MAC spoofing to get around such things, but sometimes you just have to sleep at night.
 
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Max Taxable

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I'll pretend I've never heard of MAC spoofing to get around such things
That guy would be the smart pig you referenced before. Smart-er anyway.

I feel a bit guilty getting a good belly laugh from your post, had no idea this might trigger the imagination - it was just a public service basically since I was so blissfully ignorant of the leech until he started messing up my TV viewing - and then my kneejerk reaction was to blame the cable company.

But truly: who even thinks this way today? That there could be bandwidth leeches still in our age of commonly available handheld 5G and unlimited data plans. But they're out there. SECURE YOUR WI-FI FOLKS.
 

Max Taxable

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The radio now toggles off and on, according to the schedule I've set for it in the router. One more layer of security. Radio is off when I'm in sleepytown.

Oh and by the way I forgot to mention - the thread here about people stupidly buying Faraday cages for their wi-fi routers? To protect them from Russian hax0rs and the 5G plague? Is what got me thinking about turning the radio off for a bit, as I mentioned previously.
 

Scott Voth

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Does your cable TV go through your router? Mine is split off in a junction box on the outside of the house so my cable TV is totally separate from the router other than streaming. I remember in the early days you would just see two or 3 other WiFi routers when you did a search but now there is a page worth.
 

Max Taxable

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Does your cable TV go through your router? Mine is split off in a junction box on the outside of the house so my cable TV is totally separate from the router other than streaming. I remember in the early days you would just see two or 3 other WiFi routers when you did a search but now there is a page worth.
I have a splitter as well. One cable goes right to the set top box, the other goes to the modem. Wi-Fi router is connected to the modem via LAN cable, and all of my computers and my Vonage connect to that.
 

David Norman

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That question reminded to ask -- does your Account (either CableCo and/or Router) allow you to see a breakdown of you Internet Use or even a daily Volume to compare pre-Pig, Pig, and post-Pig usage?

My account used to allow a daily and even hourly breakdown going back a month or two. Now I'm not sure I can even see a monthly total. It was always interesting to see when my kids were home from College or over Christmas and when Microsoft would roll out a Big Cumulative Update.
 

BobO'Link

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Yes, Suddenlink has a daily break out chart for internet use. I don't think it shows hourly but I've not looked at it in a while. Before I upgraded to "unlimited" data I checked it daily to be sure we didn't go over.
 

Max Taxable

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That question reminded to ask -- does your Account (either CableCo and/or Router) allow you to see a breakdown of you Internet Use or even a daily Volume to compare pre-Pig, Pig, and post-Pig usage?

My account used to allow a daily and even hourly breakdown going back a month or two. Now I'm not sure I can even see a monthly total. It was always interesting to see when my kids were home from College or over Christmas and when Microsoft would roll out a Big Cumulative Update.
Yes but it really only gives you 30 days back history with daily usage, not broken down by the hour. And I had checked it and saw the big pig spikes over my normal usage and that is what got me looking in my router logs. That and the fact my troubles suspiciously ended when I turned the radio off.

I had a much longer and more detailed 2nd post for this thread, that was lost. I clicked submit and the page just reloaded, not posting my message. So that's why the truncated 2nd post lol.

For the record I have only the set top box as leased equipment from the cable company. My modem and router are owned. (Netgear) Plus I have the Vonage router which was a one-time charge, which I have had for 16 years. Vonage is by far the best deal for VoIP phone there is IMO. I've never had a bill come in over 40 bucks, and lemme tell you it takes a LOT of talking to get that. Only had it happen twice. Normal bill is still 24 bucks after all these years, they don't raise rates.

Oh yeah and as an offshoot of this - on the last night of troubles I called Suddenlink and told them they could pack sand, that I'd just live with OTA and streaming rather than have this bull-oney every night, and they transferred me to their "loyalty department." Where the chick who answered promptly decided my TV bill could stand a 49 percent reduction for a year, and that I looked to her like a guy who needed a year's worth of the full package! I already had highest tier internet so she whacked me with highest tier TV to boot! 112 bucks total now, for the next 12 months whereas it had been 185.

And none of my troubles were ever any of their fault! Which of course I didn't find out until later on.
 

David Norman

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Good news since you did all the troubleshooting anyway.

What kind of % spikes did it take to not only suck down your router internet bnadwidth half of the splitter, but also stole from the TV side? 200-300% or more like 1000%

I wonder if it's worth it to report the guy to someone who can investigate. If he's done it once, almost 100% he has a history and is doing it to someone else as you type.
 

Max Taxable

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What kind of % spikes did it take to not only suck down your router internet bnadwidth half of the splitter, but also stole from the TV side? 200-300% or more like 1000%
It's all one pipe, regardless of splitters, speaking in plumbing terms. It's all bandwidth no matter what you're doing. Watching AEW Wrestling on Wednesday night at 7pm central on TNT? Bandwidth. The set top box is essentially a PC. Streaming a 4K youtube video on one PC while your Lady plays a heavy video game on yet another? Bandwidth.

But yeah the recorded spikes were far, far beyond even my record usage. Easily in the 500 percent and up, range. The cable company though does not count the bandwidth used by its set-top box as part of that log.

The experiment I did and mentioned earlier where I was able to completely replicate this issue, proved it's all bandwidth regardless of your "plumbing." We separate TV and internet in our minds only. In fact OTA is bandwidth too, just a different delivery mechanism. Like your phone's data plan - it's bandwidth.
I wonder if it's worth it to report the guy to someone who can investigate. If he's done it once, almost 100% he has a history and is doing it to someone else as you type.
I have his/her two MAC addresses used for the theft, but no idea how anyone would even begin to tie it to a point of use. The guy I suspect might be totally innocent, it might be someone else entirely. It's only a class B misdemeanor here anyway.
Good news since you did all the troubleshooting anyway.
I doubt there's any of the chat techs who even considered a leech. I didn't either. Never entered their minds and never occurred to me. It's like something out of the 2000s. Ten years ago it might be the first thing you think of. Not today. It's why the thread.
 

David Norman

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What if he hacks into the next dude over who doesn't have an Unlimited Plan? If they have your reports of the MAC addresses, I;m not sure that could track them somehow, but might establish a chronic theft pattern. Legally, would him hacking into someone's network (esp a business in the area) or running up somebody's bill be consider more than a misdemeanor theft of cable service? I guess depending on the company/business that might bump things into a whole different level of trouble.

I'd probably let the Cable know what was going on just in case others in the area start having similar issues -- might save a lot of headaches for some people and create a bigger HA for the perp

Just think out loud since I'm not even remotely versed on legal standing with these situations
 

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