Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Internet Pioneers Warn of VoIP Wiretapping Problems

Grant Gross, IDG News Service
Wednesday, June 14, 2006

WASHINGTON -- U.S. government efforts to require most VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) providers to permit law enforcement agencies to wiretap phone calls could introduce new cybersecurity problems to the Internet, a group of Internet security experts said this week.

A U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule requiring VoIP providers to allow wiretapping by May 2007 would either require a massive re-engineering of the Internet or introduce broad security risks, said authors of a new study released by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), an IT vendor trade group.

In addition, the requirements would stall Internet innovations in the U.S. by adding hundreds of thousands of dollars in set-up and maintenance costs to VoIP providers and potentially to other Internet applications that provide voice services, including instant messaging, and online games, according to the study, which is available online.

The study, co-authored by several people including TCP/IP co-creator Vinton Cerf and former U.S. National Security Agency encryption scientist Clinton Brooks, comes days after a U.S. appeals court upheld the FCC's VoIP wiretapping rules. On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the ruling, requiring that VoIP providers offering a substitute for traditional telephone service comply with a 1994 telephone wiretapping law called the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).

The FCC did not immediately respond to a request for comments about the ITAA study. But on Friday, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said allowing law enforcement wiretapping of VoIP calls is of "paramount importance" to U.S. security.


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