Do We Need a New Government Agency for Cyber Security?

Carl Weinschenk
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Five Things You Need to Know About VoIP

The top five things you might not be aware of, but should know when it comes to VoIP.

Two articles appeared during the past couple of weeks with the dueling headlines of "Is VOIP Secure?" and "Is VoIP too secure?"

The first, which ran in PCWorld, actually is the answer to a submitted question concerning the ability of interlopers -- legal and otherwise -- to eavesdrop on calls. Lincoln Spector writes that phone companies, the government and, presumably, thieves indeed can. But, the writer points out, this is not a change from the circuit switched world. The situation is a bit more threatening in the world of VoIP, since the caller's service is most likely linked via IP networking with other personal information. For all its inconveniences of having separate data and voice realms, the old world was inherently a bit more secure precisely because the two were separate.

The key is to encrypt calls. Spector lauds Skype for doing so, but adds other companies are not as careful. Even encrypted calls aren't foolproof. Malware in the computer can lead to compromises. He writes:

The best solution is to do what you're probably already doing: Keep your security software up-to-date, scan weekly with another security program, avoid suspicious websites, and generally practice safe computing.

The second post, at Network World, asking if VoIP is too secure, deals mostly with what the government can and cannot do-and whether the nature of VoIP is making it harder for the government to be able to do what it should be able to. Steve Taylor and Jim Metzler suggest that it is far harder to tap into VoIP than traditional analog or digital calls:

The issue that was discussed by FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni is that with VoIP solutions-and Web-based VoIP in particular-the individual conversations can be quite difficult to intercept and decode. Further, while at one time Internet-based voice conversations were largely limited to "major" applications like Skype, there is rapid and widespread proliferation of "voice chat" capabilities.


Joan Goodchild at CSO Online says that VoIP phishing-vhising, of course-is one of the most dangerous elements of the new form of telephony. The bulk of the story focuses on a conversation she had with two Cisco engineers on the three reasons why VoIP is becoming more of a security risk in the enterprise: VoIP is far more widely deployed, there are many ways-besides vhishing and spam over Internet telephony (SPIT) and it's not well protected.

The battle to protect VoIP is ongoing. The contours of that fight-and what's at stake-will grow as the platform cements its position as the predominant voice technology in both the consumer and corporate worlds.



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