If you tell enough stories, perhaps the moral will show up.


Criminalise Your Enemies.

Is it strange that so much WAN traffic is unencrypted? That became a live issue for me when we were setting up a new recovery facility. Part of the project includes links between the machine rooms, and the service provider offered us a significant cost saving by using their network to replace a hop that would cost tens of thousands ordered from COLT. Everyone was happy except me. I saw it as a tap risk.

I hate taps. A network tap is one of the points where the balance tips in favour of the attacker. They are totally stealthy and very reliable. They can be serviced by a leave-behind -- a laptop running Ethereal or TCPdump with USB disks exchanged whenever the access can be had. The only real problem the attacker faces is getting access to a good network segment -- plugging in to a workstation LAN and risking an ARP spoof is going to get some user passwords, and that's not bad, but it's not the key to the domain.

But a trunk between machine rooms is another thing entirely. Modern domain traffic ought to be harmless if overheard, but console sessions on to the DCs, SNMP strings, enable passwords on switches ... One way or another, it's the place to be if you want passwords, not to mention seeing what the fileservers see.

So, OK, taps are bad. But is it any more risky to run our traffic over a service provider's network? The contract gives them a duty to keep our data confidential, and you won't find that in a service agreement from BT or COLT.

The short answer is the criminal law. Between the termination points of section 8 licensed telecoms providers like Colt and BT, special law applies: I think it's the Interception of Communications Act 1985, but anyway there are criminal penalties for tapping their systems without a warrant. They can't even do it themselves, and that's why there's no confidentiality in the contract.

The point here is not so much the penalties but the criminal liability. Evidence of a crime -- and an unexpected laptop stuffed with traffic logs is evidence -- lets the police investigate. Serious industrial spies always seek to operate below the radar of Babylon, and that makes for real protection.

IoCA is protection, but it's limited. It doesn't stretch beyond the endpoints. If we found a tap on the service provider's network, we could remove it, but no crime has been committed. To get any recourse we would have to mount our own surveillance and investigation, and that is a place I don't want to go.

We're sticking with the service provider's network, but some of the savings are going on hooking it through our firewalls with the encryption turned on.

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