Home > Business, Cost Reduction, Process Improvement, Support, Technology > Fixed: RCN Hijacking Mistyped URLs

Fixed: RCN Hijacking Mistyped URLs

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Late last week, I was having a problem with RCN hijacking my mistyped URLs.  I was finally able to get them fixed!  This post has two different distinct topics; the situation and how the problem was solved.  In the near future I will post a new entry analyzing RCN’s business practices.

*Update – December 31st 2009*
I added a symptoms section and two guaranteed solutions at the bottom of this post.

The Situation

I spent hours on the phone with RCN (800-RING-RCN) and their representatives in Filipino call center.  I went through six phone calls, over three total hours on the phone, and reset my router and modem at least eight times.

From the discussions I had with the Filipino representatives, I concluded  my technical knowledge likely  surpassed theirs to a great degree. Each representative I talked to took over 30 minutes to fully understand the extent of the problem either through my explanation, their review of their FAQ system, or their review of my call history.

I told each representative I talked to that I was using the Safari browser on a Mac computer.  I also informed them that I was behind a NAT router.

One of my early discussions with the representatives lead to a discovery of an internal e-mail that RCN sent to all of their technicians.  On August 4th, RCN started utilizing a “PaxFire” system that would direct users that mis-typed or typed in an invalid URL to an RCN search page that contained sponsored search results.  I frequently had to refer to this email to subsequent RCN technicians to help them understand the situation.

With or without referring to this document, all of the representatives I talked to wanted me to clear my history and cookies.  This would supposedly solve the problem. It did not; and I knew it wouldn’t.  I was just following their directions.  At different points, they wanted me to go to the “terminal” and type in the following command in order to discover my DNS server settings:

/cat/etc/resolv.conf

That command was actually an invalid command that was listed in their FAQ system.  The correct command to find the current DNS server addresses on a Mac OSX computer, as I found searching the internet, is the following:

more /etc/resolv.conf

Correct command or not, I was still behind a router, therefor my Mac’s DNS server settings would always be my router. This was further proof that the technicians I talked to did not understand the situation.  They did not understand how to discover the problem.  Finally, they did not understand the possible solutions.  RCN’s Filipino technicians were incompetent and/or ignorant of internet technologies.

The problem I was having was simple; my router was receiving RCN’s DNS server address that utilized the “PaxFire” system.  They had already set me as opting out of this “PaxFire” system.   I should have been getting the “non-PaxFire” DNS server address.

Fixing the Problem

After these many hours on the phone with support over the weekend, and with no solution in sight, I wrote the previous blog entry.  I also tweeted my problem on Twitter.  Today, Monday, I received a Twitter response from @RCNConnects asking me to e-mail Help_Me_RCN@RCN.net with my problem.  I sent a quick e-mail and hoped for the best.

An hour later, I received a call from an RCN technician that was based in the United States!  We quickly went through several things and my problem was fixed!  I can’t tell what finally solved the problem.  But we completed the following steps within 15 minutes:

  • I restarted my modem and router.  (Did not fix problem)
  • I told the representative my IP address, proving it was receiving an IP address on the Non-FoxFire enable router. (Problem Persisted)
  • I connected my modem directly to my computer, and restarted the modem.
  • I checked my DNS servers using the correct command above. (Problem Solved)
  • I reconnected my computer to my router, and reconnected my router to my modem.
  • I restarted the router and modem.  (Problem still solved)

I can not verify what, if anything, the RCN technician did on his end.  From my perspective, I essentially reset my router/modem, which I had already done many times unsuccessfully solving my problem.  The solution possibly had something to do with the change in connected devices.  It is also possible the technician did something that I was unaware of.

In either case, my problem was solved during the conversation with a Unites States based technician.  And the only way that a customer can get in touch with one, from what I can tell, is to e-mail Help_Me_RCN@RCN.net.

Symptoms

When a mistyped or invalid URL is entered, an RCN search page is displayed.

Solution 1 – Easy

  1. E-mail Help_Me_RCN@RCN.net.
  2. When that process is complete, power cycle your equipment.
    1. Unplug the modem and connected device (router or PC/Mac)
    2. Plug in the modem; wait 1 minute
    3. Plug in or start the connected device.
  3. The connected device should now pull a different IP address and DNS server.

Solution 2 – Advanced

  1. Download the DNS Benchmark program from GRC.com/dns/benchmark.htm
  2. Run the program
  3. Update your machines DNS addresses to a fast, public, non hijacked DNS server. The address will be provided
  4. This will not only fix the RCN hijacking problem, but will also speed up internet browsing since you will not be using the DNS services provided by RCN or your home router.
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  1. August 28, 2009 at 10:38 PM | #1

    I just had the same problem. I called RCN, and they fixed it within 10 minutes.

    • August 28, 2009 at 11:01 PM | #2

      I guess they are learning how to solve the problem! I called the DAY of the switch.

  2. michelle
    September 2, 2009 at 6:27 PM | #3

    Thank you for posting this. I called for the same issue and was having a similar experience with RCN Tech Support not understanding the issue and reading through the generic script of turn off this and restart that. After repeatedly telling them the problem was not with my connection I was placed on hold. Thankfully while waiting on hold for 15 minutes found your blog entry and was able to tell them I simply wanted to opt out of the new “FoxFire” system. Everything is back in order and I wanted to thank you for saving me, and probably many others, hours of frustration.

    • September 9, 2009 at 10:01 PM | #4

      Glad my blog helped you out Michelle! I hope everything is still working well!

  3. Ashley
    November 6, 2009 at 8:22 PM | #5

    I’m so glad I found this post. I emailed Help_Me_RCN@RCN.net and received a response within an hour, informing me that the RCN search service was removed from my modem. I’m still annoyed that I had to deal with this at all, but at least it’s resolved now.

    • November 9, 2009 at 2:39 PM | #6

      Glad this helped. I agree they shouldn’t do it in the first place.

  4. madjhf
    April 22, 2010 at 12:40 AM | #7

    Hello,
    I may be off topic but I am so confused about what is wrong with my connection since subscribing to RCN. My connection goes out multiple times a day and while it says I have a good connection, it can never “connect” because it shows no IP address/search for IP address, etc. RCN support says it’s my D-link but I have never had problems with it until I switched to RCN. When, at random times a day, my connection is lost and looking for IP, I have to open connections, uncheck things, retype in key, search for connection, uncheck windows internet, shutdown, restart and cross my fingers. That, 15 minute process has to be done at least 3x a day and even when it works, my connection is so, so slow. Any help would be wonderful. Thanks a million for your time!

    • April 26, 2010 at 5:15 AM | #8

      Strange. I would call RCN and see what they can do to help.

  1. September 26, 2009 at 12:47 AM | #1
  2. October 28, 2009 at 6:24 PM | #2
  3. January 8, 2010 at 8:13 PM | #3

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