VoIP In A Fishbowl

Some years ago I wrote an article about the first VoIP-based security exploit in the industry. As with any digital technology these days, the darker side of the technology community has its sights on VoIP. More recently I’ve waxed eloquent over what I see as the coming tidal wave of mobile VoIP applications, running both on smartphones and portable devices such as laptops and slates.

Add the two together – mobile VoIP and security – and the outcome could be explosive: hackers potentially intercepting VoIP calls. I don’t know about others, but I don’t want all and sundry listening in to my phone calls to my doctor, my lawyer, my stockbroker, etc.

Well, it seems that the National Security Agency (NSA) has had the same worries, that when (not if) it eventually converts to mobile VoIP its spooks calls might be intercepted, national secrets compromised. Indeed it now turns out that the NSA has been conducting a study – code named Fishbowl – that has come up with a nascent secure version of VoIP, running on the Android operating system. Surprisingly, the usually ultra-secret NSA has published a paper on its research, which anyone is welcome to read (if they can find it). Hint for Phone.com blog readers: it’s at http://www.nsa.gov/ia/_files/Mobility_Capability_Pkg_%28Version_1.1U%29.pdf.

So what does this all mean to run of the mill VoIP users? Simply that I foresee an awakening among wireless providers that there are security issues involved in mobile VoIP, and that awareness is sure to eventually lead to more secure communications for all of us. For business VoIP users it means greater security as business increasingly adopt mobile VoIP applications.

Stuart Zipper is currently a contributing editor to Communications Technology, a high tech business journalism consultant and freelancer, and the past Senior Editor of TelecomWeb news break.