In the US, everyone has been shocked by the news of the NSA system, PRISM, which has been siphoning personal data from certain systems for a number of years. Who would have guessed that the government spies on suspected criminals and others who may or may not have any connection with criminal activity? Our writers have been touching on the topic of lawful interception – exactly the kind of technology upon which this program has been built. It seemed as though it would only be a matter of time before this technology exploded into a major controversy.
The PRSIM system has brought this topic into the spotlight. Recently, both the Washington Post and Guardian received copies of a PowerPoint presentation that outlines how PRSIM supposedly operates. In much the same manner as described as other lawful intercept technology, sheds some light on how the PRISM system works from a surface level.
Many worldwide services have been identified as resources from which communication is collected. Basically, information is routed around the world based on the most inexpensive medium. The US happens to have the highest rate of data transfer between any given continent. Basically, it’s like the economic principal of supply and demand. The US has the most supply so generally it is cheapest to route data through the US, though not always.
Data is picked up through backdoor connections that are relayed through SIGADs like PRISM around the world. Depending on the format of the communication, it is broken into text then analyzed for content. From there information is stored accordingly. When enough questionable info is collected from a source, further surveillance efforts may be put in place to more closely monitor an account.
VoIP in the Middle East
It’s concerning to Americans but this is nothing new to much of the rest of the world. At WhichVoIP, the development of Middle Eastern countries has been a topic of high interest. As this region of the world has some of the most restrictive communication policies, it is interesting to see how some countries are relaxing monitoring while others are taking the opposite approach by blocking more services.
In the country of Bahrain, State Minister of Communication Affairs Shaikh Fawaz Bin Mohammad Al Kalifa, is putting a putting a stop to popular VoIP apps in the country such as Skype, Viber and Tango. There is a two-fold reason for this regulation.
1.) These services all use end to end encryption. Bahrain does not have the authority to access the data sent across these networks in a real time fashion. As such, these transmissions are invisible to government agencies which is considered a potential threat to security.
2.) A financial issue also factors into the decision. Some 8% of the population uses VoIP on a regular basis. This accounts for a loss of approximately of 1.5 million Bahraini Dinars or about $566,000 USD.
Iraq is taking a different but parallel approach by opening up communication capabilities by implementing VoIP in some regions. The Kurdistan region of Iraq is making use of the telecommunications service Neide Telecom. As the first service in all of Iraq to offer VoIP, their presence has become quite powerful since the start of the company in 2009. The services provided help other providers like mobile and ISPs with reliable infrastructure to further leverage the capabilities of others.
Neide Telecom chose the Canadian provider PortaOne to help build the infrastructure of the company. The company’s full function IP PBX, the PortaSwitch, was selected as the primary unit to help support their efforts. It has the capability to provide functionality for standard VoIP processes and further extends to support additional operations that allow Neide Telecom to function as a full digital service company.
PortaOne is partnered with the company NeuStar as of mid-2007 to help expand the capabilities of the PortaSwitch. NeuStar has enabled PortaOne to implement lawful intercept methods into the platform. This is a large part of the reason why Neide Telecom selected PortaOne for their products.
As arguably one of the most tumultuous countries on the planet until the removal of Dictator Saddam Hussein, having an active monitoring system is quite favorable news to the rest of the world. By actively monitoring suspected terrorist groups this can help Iraq become a safer place and further develop into a productive country. Yet the same controversy that applies in more developed countries may eventually become an issue among Iraqi citizens.
Even though a country has been scrutinized for harboring individuals who are viewed as a threat to the world, is it right to monitor everyone? This hot seat topic for the United States is bringing this subject into the limelight for the rest of the world. As this issue is discussed among leaders and the rest of the world, it seems apparent that a fine line is being danced upon by decision makers in the US. Are we really safer because of active communication monitoring or is there a better way?