Sunday, October 23, 2005

ITEC 6323 | ITEC 6324 Security entry for the week of October 25, 2005


In the interest of full disclosure, in the past I applied for jobs at several federal law enforcement agencies because I admired the work they did in protecting the public. But this story from the New York Times makes very little sense.

The article is titled, "Colleges Protest Call to Upgrade Online Systems" and it was published on October 23, 2005, by Sam Dillon and Stephen Labaton. The article centers around a dispute between universities and federal law enforcement agencies over expansion of the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act. The act originally was targed at telephone carriers and required them to engineering their switching systems to allow federal officers to obtain easy surveillance access. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has expanded the original law to now include universities, public & private libraries, airports providing wireless services, and commercial internet access providers (think T-Mobile hotspot at your local Starbucks).

Because of the advent of Voice over IP (VoIP), Instant Messaging (IM), and other internet based forms of communiction, federal law enforcement officers claim the 1994 wiretap law needs to be expanded to address emerging technologies "in their fight against criminals, terrorists, and spies." Why is it that every time now somebody wants something at the federal level, they throw the word "terrorist" out there. Its become a catch all phrase. If they can't come up with an explaination, they just throw out the word "terrorist."

In this case, the feds want all traffic at these locations to first flow throw networking equipment they can tap and monitor (instead of just going to the router and out to the internet).

There is a figure from 2003 that of the 1442 state & federal wiretap orders issued to the FBI, only 12 were for computer communications and all 12 were executed without issue.

Various educational organizations such as the American Council on Education and Educause plan to fight this expansion of the wiretap law because by some estimates, it will cost the nation's universities and colleges $7 billions to purchase the networking equipment necessary to comply with the expanded law.

I will monitor this story because I am VERY interested in the outcome. Stay tuned.

You can read the full story at the New York Times online -

Rob Hiltbrand


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