Vendors eye VoIP security

As the VoIP (voice over IP) market continues to grow, network equipment and software vendors are beginning to step up with a raft of products to lock down the security of IP telephony data streams.

Brampton, Ont.-based giant Nortel Networks Corp. last week announced that its new Interactive Multimedia Server has gone into trials telco Bell Canada. The device helps lock down security by sending voice, video, and data communication signals down the same set of channels.

“You don’t have as many windows to watch,” explained Jim Thomas, Nortel’s senior marketing manager for marketing and multimedia services.

Meanwhile, Cambridge, Mass.-based Aravox Technologies Inc., makers of a high-speed device that can automatically open and close network ports when authorized calls are recognized, is planning to release a new solution that enhances firewall, NAT (Network Address Translation) processing, and call setup speeds and can also handle more concurrent calls, according to Aravox co-founder Craig Warren. The product should be released sometime this year, Warren said.

On the contact center front, Aspect Communications Corp. in San Jose, Calif., in late December announced Version 2.0 of its WinSet VoIP software, designed to let remote workers connect securely to enterprise contact centers using IP telephony. The software establishes VPN links with its remote staff, creating virtual contact centers.

Solutions such as these are needed to boost IP telephony adoption, particularly among carriers, who have long been leery of the technology because of the high volume of calls they must handle and the large number of customers they serve, according to Boston-based research The Yankee Group Inc.

Specifically, innovation can be expected in the form of voice intrusion detection products, DoS (denial of service) solutions to ward against floods of session initiation requests, and high-speed NAT services to securely establish and manage multiple caller sessions, said Matthew Kovar, a Yankee Group analyst.

Other solutions that could stimulate the industry include firewalls robust enough to provide constant network availability and devices that can securely manage unencrypted and uncompressed VoIP data without affecting network performance, Kovar said.

But any gains are likely to be hard-won. Because of the high performance and availability requirements of a telephony system, most observers feel that VoIP services present far greater security challenges than regular data services. IP telephony applications must be accessible at all times and present no more than 20 milliseconds of latency, Kovar noted, which renders many conventional VPN technologies inadequate.

“It’s a fairly robust solution that’s required,” he said. “All the inherent problems with data networks are migrated over to the voice world, but at the same time you also need more reliability and robustness than pure data.”

Nortel Networks in Brampton, Ont., is at

The Yankee Group in Boston is at