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Expert scares world with VoIP hacking proof

Ex-BorderWare guru strips IP calls naked.

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An expert has released a proof-of-concept program to show how easy it would be for criminals to eavesdrop on the VoIP-based phone calls of any company using the technology.

Called SIPtap, the software is able to monitor multiple Voice-over-IP (VoIP) call streams, listening in and recording them for remote inspection as .wav files. All that the criminal would need would be to infect a single PC inside the network with a Trojan incorporating these functions, although the hack would work at ISP level as well.

The program can index 'IP-tapped' calls by caller - using SIP identity information - and by recipient, and even by date. Running from August this year until the most recent tap on 21 November, SIPtap had no problems in extracting enough information on the test network to prove that call recording of any and every VoIP call at a hypothetical company was now a trivial exercise.

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SIPtap demonstrates that the worst-case nightmares of VoIP vulnerability are now well within the capabilities of organised crime, which could use such a program to steal confidential data from companies, governments and even the police.

The demonstrator is the work of UK-based VoIP expert, Peter Cox, who co-founded and was CTO of firewall vendor BorderWare, before leaving the company last summer to start his own VoIP consultancy, due to be up and running by Spring 2008. He was inspired to write the software after conversations with encryption guru Phil Zimmermann, creator of Zfone, the latter designed to protect against SIPtap-like hacking by using VoIP call encryption.

"We are in the early days of VoIP, but there is a knowledge gap," said Cox, lamenting the naivety about VoIP's inherent security weaknesses among the mostly telecoms-oriented engineers building such systems. "Companies using VoIP internally think they are protected."

"The threat is that an attacker engineers a Trojan and has it sit there passively [on a network], recording calls from anywhere on the Internet," says Cox.

His advice was simple. "Apply the same vigour when building a VoIP network you would when building a website."

Cox is currently running a series of workshops on VoIP threats in conjunction with SIP Services Europe, and has published his own Video podcast on the topic.


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James said: I assume SIPtap only work on SIP So H323 or IAX would not be affected If you only have Cisco gateways talking to each other how would a computer on the network infect a gateway Also on a closed network this would not be a security issue The encription Cisco has called TLS would 100 eliminate this security issue

David Ellis, COMPUTERLINKS Dir said: Hackers may utilise VoIP security holes to hijack calls or gain access deeper into your network Each VoIP element on the network is vulnerable including PBXs gateways and IP phones An IP handset is vulnerable to the same threat from worms and Trojans Attacks of such nature could bring the entire business to a stand still if they are not protected against A resilient security offering must support the benefits that VoIP brings IP telephony vendors such as Swyx and security vendors are already facing this challenge and providing specific support for VoIP For example security vendor Check Point already provides support for VoIP protocols where the Swyx solution sits behind the router and the firewall on a separate server Skills in data security and voice will be required to deliver a truly secure VoIP solution Whether that is voice resellers improving skills from a security and data perspective data resellers training up from a voice perspective is still to be seen

Dr. John said: For those of you who think switch traffic cannot be sniffed think again Keep in mind that switches are just computers See wwwciscocomwarppublicccsEncryption is the answer right now providing you have sufficient bandwidth and own the whole network Encryption requires decryption doesnt it How are you going to do that with a non-VOIP instrument at the other end said: SIP over SSL and dont problem

Rick McCharles said: All that the criminal would need would be to infect a single PCREALLYHow about a little perspective Can the single PC record all calls in a switched network environment when voice and data traffic is segmented when its encrypted when all of the other well know security best practices are employedEnough with the silly hype already

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