Researchers blame middlebox hardware on slow mobile network connections

University of Michigan computer science researchers and experts from Microsoft Research say they have discovered mobile network hardware that could be slowing down network connections and potentially exposing customers to security problems.

According to the researchers' recent report, "An Untold Story of Middleboxes in Cellular Networks," middleboxes that perform functions such as deep packet inspection, firewalling and intrusion detection caused a 50-percent degradation in performance on one of the four major U.S. operator networks.

They also discovered that some of the network management policies resulted in subscribers' phones draining faster than typical use, and the researchers found security holes in some international operator networks.

The researchers are putting the blame on the middlebox hardware in the network because it buffers traffic, inspects the packets and reassembles them.

"The behavior and effects of middleboxes in wireless networks is not well understood," Zhuoqing Morley Mao, professor of computer science at the University of Michigan, told Cnet. "There can be unexpected interaction between devices in the network."

The researchers tested the network by finding nearly 400 volunteers to download a free app called NetPiculet on their Android smartphones. The app then conducted a number of tests that were anonymously transmitted back to the engineers.

For more:
- see this Cnet article

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