In the days of phone phreaking and blue boxing, protecting your network and its customers was focused mainly on eliminating toll fraud and preventing pranksters from playing with switches. Well, those days are over, and the days ahead look much, much tougher, especially now that carriers roll out Internet services and have centralized network management.
Offering customers a connection to the Internet raises a slew of security issues that carriers have never had to address before, leaving them wondering where their responsibility to protect users begins and ends. Besides, as central offices become more intelligent, more independent and require less staff, security issues surrounding remote maintenance grow even stronger. In short, new networks and new services mean new problems.
"Everybody's too busy rushing to provide Internet services to keep up with the Joneses," says John Pescatore, director of research advisory services for Glenwood, Md.-based Trusted Information Systems (www.tis.com). "As more homes and business become wired, people's computers are becoming vulnerable to attack. This is going to become a bigger and bigger disaster risk for telcos."
The disaster doesn't necessarily lie in liability. Pescatore says existing laws protect carriers from wrathful customers that have been burned by hackers.
But in a world where network availability and integrity are everything, a supposedly secure record tarnished by hackers can result in dwindling subscribers. Hacking may not initially result in lost revenue for carriers, but it can mean lost opportunities, which eventually translate to dollars and market share.
Providing security really becomes an issue when business customers are subscribing for a constant hardwire connection to the Net via frame relay or a similar network. Such is the case for Pacific Bell's Internet …