HowardForums.com is one of the largest and oldest mobile phone forums on the web, a site I'm sure many of you visit to chat with your peers about phones and carriers. HowardForums.com moderators are vigilant when it comes to taking down posts relating to illegal activities. A few days ago, a HoFo user posted a discovery that MobiTV, a service that provides streaming TV to a variety of mobile phones for a monthly fee, used plain old unsecured URLs for those streaming feeds. Likely the TV networks whose content MobiTV streams wouldn't be happy to hear that nor the carriers with whom MobiTV partners. This means that compatible phones and even PCs with QuickTime or RealPlayer installed can gain access to MobiTV feeds simply by entering the URL for a given channel in their browser. No hacking, no passwords or DRM-breaking required. Yikes.
We'd like to think that the engineers at MobiTV are hard at work adding some level of protection for their and the TV networks' content. We have no idea though. What we do know is that their lawyers sent a cease and desist letter to Howard Chui, owner of HowardForums.com, demanding that Howard take down his user's post. Since the user was posting a publicly accessible URL and not a hack, password or encryption-breaking technique, Howard declined. MobiTV's lawyers have moved to contact the hosting company that Howard uses for the site as well as ICANN and demand that the site be taken down. So HowardForums may be taken down (hosting companies don't like legal issues and don't want to be involved- it's easier to just pull the plug on a site even if the grounds are dicey).
We don't condone stealing of passwords, breaking of copy protection or unauthorized use of user accounts to access premium content. But this is a case of none of these. Rather MobiTV seems to want to shoot the messenger, in this case the forum that hosts a user's post relating to their lack of security regarding their content. And given the number of sites that are posting about the MobiTV vs HowardForums issue, I'd say MobiTV's actions are backfiring and calling even more attention to the lack of security and authentication of their premium content.
-------------------- Lisa Gade Editor in Chief, MobileTechReview