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Feds Want to Tap VoIP

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the can-i-hear-you-now dept.

Privacy 489

An anonymous reader writes "From the Globe and Mail: The FBI and the U.S. Justice Department have renewed their efforts to wiretap voice conversations carried across the Internet. Federal and local police rely heavily on wiretaps. In 2002, the most recent year for which information is available, police intercepted nearly 2,200,000 conversations with court approval, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Wiretaps for that year cost taxpayers $69.5 million, and approximately 80 per cent were related to drug investigations."

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489 comments

Gay Oreo is here to stay! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935025)

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Re:Gay Oreo is here to stay! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935194)

GNAA. What is it all about... is it good, or is it whack?

Law Enforcement and Technology (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935028)

Sounds fine to me; We have to keep our law enforcement departments up to date with technology. I would gladly trade my privacy in silly conversations for the safety of a secured America. The only people who don't like this stuff are people who have something to hide.

Re:Law Enforcement and Technology (5, Insightful)

occupant4 (172507) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935080)

Sounds fine to me; We have to keep our law enforcement departments up to date with technology. I would gladly trade my privacy in silly conversations for the safety of a secured America. The only people who don't like this stuff are people who have something to hide.

That's nice for you, but I wouldn't trade my privacy in silly conversations for the (illusion of) safety in America. Neither would a lot of other people. The problem is, you can't just trade your privacy by endorsing wiretaps. You're trading everyone's privacy. Perhaps you'd like to write a letter allowing the government to listen to all the conversations they want, read your emails, and rifle through your files, but don't speak for the rest of the country.

Re:Law Enforcement and Technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935088)

I think you just fed a troll.

Re:Law Enforcement and Technology (5, Interesting)

cyt0plas (629631) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935099)

Not true. I have nothing to hide - I still don't wnat Uncle Sam listening to everything I do. Some of us still believe in privacy.

On a side note, sometimes people have things to hide with good reason. A number of the founding fathers lived as long as they did because of Privacy. A number of blacks were better off because records could be kept from corrupt local governments. People have been persecuted by scientology for speaking out against it - sometimes privacy is the only safeguard. Can you honestly say you trust every single person who has access to your data (government or not) to act in your best interest, or at least the best interest of the country. Here's a hint: if the government can beat it, someone else can too.

I'll take my privacy, thank you very much. The only way to stop power from being abused is to not grant it in the first place. Our society is based on individual freedom - for example, the whole "guilty until proven innocent" thing. Our constitution is set up to let the guilty go free rather than imprison the innocent, should a conflict arise. Would placing the burden of proof on the defense (or eliminating the trial altogether) mean fewer criminals went free? Of course! Would more innocent mean be imprisoned? Of course.

Is it worth it? Hardly. From what I hear, though, if you like that sort of thing, Cuba is not hard to get into.

Hyperbole++; (4, Insightful)

egg troll (515396) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935136)

I still don't wnat Uncle Sam listening to everything I do.


What makes you think that Uncle Sam is going to listen to "everything you do"? Remember, this law doesn't give the gov't carte blanche to listen to the conversations of anyone it chooses to. It must show a court of law that there is sufficient reason that you are using the phone lines to commit a felony. All this law does is put VoIP on the same legal standing as traditional phone lines, with regards to wiretapping.


Equating the gov't trying to stop the illegal actions of mobsters and drug dealers with a police state is pointless hyperbole. There may be issues with wiretapping laws, but your posting certainly doesn't convince me. If there is anything wrong with this statute you'll have to find a better arguement.

Update... (2, Interesting)

orthancstone (665890) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935225)

The unfortunate problem is that since we have crap like the Patriot Act, it isn't as hard for the government to get whatever access it likes. By now, they pretty much DON'T need a reason anymore...

Re:Hyperbole++; (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935233)

What makes you think that Uncle Sam is going to listen to "everything you do"? Remember, this law doesn't give the gov't carte blanche to listen to the conversations of anyone it chooses to. It must show a court of law that there is sufficient reason that you are using the phone lines to commit a felony. All this law does is put VoIP on the same legal standing as traditional phone lines, with regards to wiretapping.

Ummm, have you been asleep for the past two years?

Re:Hyperbole++; (2, Informative)

faedle (114018) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935267)

Hmm.. where have I heard this before?

Oh yeah.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. -- Fourth Amendment, Constitution of the United States

You should look at what "probable cause" used to mean, legally, in the United States. Tapping phones because they "suspect" somebody might be dealing drugs or be a terrorist is a long way from "probable cause." If you have "probable cause", you can (and should be able to) arrest somebody.

Nowadays, you don't even have to have "suspicion" that an individual can be involved. You can just tap all phones within x square yards of where drugs are being sold, and you can get a blanket warrant from a judge for everybody's phone.

Sounds pretty far away from what Jefferson et. al. had in mind when they penned those words.

Oh, and also, the Tenth comes to mind here.. nowhere in the Constitution is the Federal Government granted the right to tap telephones, therefore they don't have it. But that's another issue entirely.

Mon parent up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935206)

+1 devils advocate ;-)

the solution: (-1)

cmdr_shithead (527909) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935030)

the dictatorship of the proletariat!

SMASH ISRAEL! DOWN WITH ZIONISM!

Bound to happen... (4, Insightful)

soapbox (695743) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935031)

Well, because there are some legitimate reasons to tap communications of any sort (as in, got a judge to OK it), I figure that it was bound to happen at some point. Though it still creeps me out and makes me eagerly anticipate a nice encrypted VoIP client...

So we respond with Nautlius (4, Informative)

corebreech (469871) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935040)

Nautlius is VoIP that uses Blowfish as the cipher.

Here's the home page. [berlios.de] Get the software here. [berlios.de] It hasn't been updated in awhile, but maybe now there's more of an incentive to do so.

Re:So we respond with Nautlius (1, Funny)

kid-noodle (669957) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935050)

Why?

What is it you're saying you wouldn't want the feds to hear?

I smell ... guilt... Send the flying monkeys at once!

Re:So we respond with Nautlius (5, Insightful)

ATMAvatar (648864) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935112)

Maybe I'm calling my doctor about a health problem I don't care anyone else to know about (rash? std? hemmrhoids?), or I'm feeling lonely and decide to call up a phone sex company, or I'm on the phone with a significant other talking about private matters, etc.

There are plenty of topics I could be chatting about on the phone that have zero sinister/criminal element but are extremely personal and undesirable to have eavesdroppers.

Re:So we respond with Nautlius (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935197)

Maybe I'm calling my doctor about a health problem I don't care anyone else to know about (rash? std? hemmrhoids?)

No need for wiretapping. The feds seeing your VoIP client connecting to uranus.preparationh.com is enough.

Re:So we respond with Nautlius (0, Flamebait)

kid-noodle (669957) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935215)

I dub you unamerican.

How does a free trip to camp X-ray sound?

;)

Snarky bastard! :-) (nt) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935229)

Re:So we respond with Nautlius (5, Informative)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935257)

You don't need encryption for protection from wiretaps in those situations, the spooks are already required to disconnect (or ditch-and-not-listen-to any recording) the instant they realize it's a call that is unrelated to the matter being investigated.

The analog phone network is pretty physically secure (messing with the wires through town will attract police, and the central offices are pretty secure places) so there's really not that much risk of an unauthorized analog wiretap.

The system's pretty good as it is, the spooks just want to make sure technology doesn't take away what's one of their strongest tools for stopping crimes before they get any worse.

Re:So we respond with Nautlius (1)

kid-noodle (669957) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935263)

So... sarcasm is trolling now?

To clarify: That was sarcasm, an extension of the idea to absurdity. Naturally there are many reasons I can think of that any sane person could have for not wishing to be listened in on - not least of which being that they don't want some stranger listening in on them!

For those missing the point here - the sarcasm is a comment on the tendency of those wishing to pry 'for our own good', to assume we must be doing something wrong if we don't want them to pry into it. Any questions?

^^ Funniest link I have seen all year! ^^ (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935082)

You link to http://www.mnftiu.cc/mnftiu.cc/war.html is so hallarious. Where did you find this. I am in tears I am laughing so hard. I suggest people start from the begenning. Very funny!!

Anybody watching FOX right now? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935131)

Boston FUCKING Public ripping off the Simpsons! What the shit. This show used to be good, now the only reason to watch it is the bouncing racks of Jeri Ryan and Natalia Baron.

Re:Anybody watching FOX right now? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935137)

Jeri Ryan's tits are already on the Internet.

Can I be the first to say... (3, Informative)

Unominous Coward (651680) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935044)

1) Good luck identifying VoIP traffic

2) Good luck decrypting it

That is all.

Re:Can I be the first to say... (1)

jfmiller (119037) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935083)

"The agencies have asked the Federal Communications Commission to order companies offering voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service to rewire their networks to guarantee police the ability to eavesdrop on subscribers' conversations."

It would appear that they are asking for help from the providers. They simply want the same situation with VoIP providers as they have with POTS folks.

Sence the value of a VoIP system (again like POTS phones) is based on how many people you can talk to. You can encrypt all the informatiojn you want between you and your friends, but if you wnat to be on a big and easily accessable network, the feds want in.

JFMILLER

Re:Can I be the first to say... (4, Insightful)

El (94934) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935126)

You can encrypt all the information you want between you and your friends, but if you wnat to be on a big and easily accessable network, the feds want in.

Which is exactly why the whole thing is silly. Do people really make unsolicited phone calls to discuss their criminal intentions with strangers, or do they usually only discuss these things with people they already know well, and thus are capable of distributing 1024-bit keys to before hand? Last time I checked, Al Queda wasn't using cold-calling to recruit new suicide bombers...

Re:Can I be the first to say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935174)

> Do people really make unsolicited phone calls to discuss their criminal
> intentions with strangers,

Sure. If you're a dealer you have to deal to someone!

Re:Can I be the first to say... (4, Funny)

rco3 (198978) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935184)

Last time I checked, Al Queda wasn't using cold-calling to recruit new suicide bombers...


See? That nation-wide no-call list is good for *something*!

Re:Can I be the first to say... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935186)

They don't have to exchange keys before hand if they use Diffie-Hellman, and all the monitoring in the world won't help unless they have enormous computational power.

Use this -

#include /* Usage: dh base exponent modulus */
typedef unsigned char u;u m[1024],g[1024],e[1024],b[1024];int n,v,d,z,S=129;a(
u *x,u *y,int o){d=0;for(v=S;v--;){d+=x[v]+y[v]*o;x[v]=d;d=d>>8; }}s(u *x){for(
v=0;(v=m[v])a(x,m,-1);}r(u *x){d=0;for(v=0;v0;n++){for(z=4;z--;)a(y,y ,1);x[n]|=32;y[S-1]|=x[n]-48-(x[n]>96)*39;}}p(u *x){for(n=0;!x[n];)n++;for(;n159)*7,48+(x[n]&15)+7 *((x[n]&15)>9));
printf("\n");}main(int c,char **v){h(v[1],g);h(v[2],e);h(v[3],m);bzero(b,S);b[
S-1]=1;for(n=S*8;n--;){if(e[S-1]&1)M(b,g);M(g,g);r (e);}p(b);}

Re:Can I be the first to say... (5, Insightful)

Wesley Felter (138342) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935089)

The whole point of the article is that the FBI does not want to actually do the tapping. They want Vonage, Packet8, etc. to do the tapping for them.

If you're using IP-to-IP VoIP instead, the FBI will just use Carnivore.

If you're using crypto, the FBI will just break into your house/office and backdoor your computer.

Re:Can I be the first to say... (3, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935226)

the FBI will just break into your house/office and backdoor your computer.

Then sooner or later, Bubba will backdoor you in jail.

What happens if... (3, Insightful)

phr1 (211689) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935046)

you buy a couple of those Cisco ATA186 VOIP phone adapters (POTS phone jack on one side, ethernet on the other, about $150 each) and route its IP side through your favorite IPSEC VPN box (Netgear makes one for about $150)? Don't you get an untappable phone? Feds would have to ban routing voice traffic through a VPN in order to stop that.

One word: "Back Doors" (3, Insightful)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935102)

Oops, that's two!

through your favorite IPSEC VPN box (Netgear makes one for about $150)?

Probibly, eventually, manufacturers will be directed to provide "backdoors" much like cryptography schemes that the NSA et al have tried to push on the public.

2,200,000? (3, Interesting)

John Seminal (698722) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935047)

Wow, that is alot of conversations Uncle Sam was listening in on. What I would find to be more interesting is how many arrests were made from those 2,200,000 wiretaps.

Can VoIP be encrypted in such a way that even if it is intercepted, it is useless? What is to stop someone from writing code that does that? Or will the NSA get involved?

Re:2,200,000? (3, Interesting)

swb (14022) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935068)

Those are the ones that are above board. There was a time when the NSA could tap virtually any conversation they wanted, as they had intercepts between almost all microwave relays. Read "The Puzzle Palace" and be prepared for some interesting stuff.

Re:2,200,000? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935074)

looks like Uncle Sam is related to Big Brother.

Re:2,200,000? (1)

tarquin_fim_bim (649994) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935146)

He's his nephew, do I win a prize?

Re:2,200,000? (1)

hustin (684493) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935235)

I'm his nephew... do I win a prize...?

Re:2,200,000? (1)

Cat_Byte (621676) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935106)

Mid-stream they would need to know your encryption key. However it is un-encrypted inside the building on each end so that would be a point to easily tap.

Re:2,200,000? (0, Flamebait)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935107)

2,200,000 democrats.

Re:2,200,000? (3, Interesting)

cyt0plas (629631) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935119)

This is the very nature of cryptography, and the reason for the "Sneak and Peak" provisions of the Patriot Act.

When you roll out the unbreakable crypto (easy - although 1024 _may_ be crackable, 2048 is _not_ - at least yet), they wait for you to leave, break into you location, and install keyloggers, take encryption keys, add backdoors, etc. until they don't need to break your crypto.

Re:2,200,000? (1)

Cat_Byte (621676) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935127)

If you set it up right the key changes at set intervals and even the admin doesn't know what it is.

Re:2,200,000? (1)

cyt0plas (629631) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935147)

Hence the keylogger/trojans. They key is in memory, all you have to do is figure out where to look (not hard at all). For VOIP, you can get your the private key person being tapped, and depending on the VOIP client, run a Man In The Middle attack, or just grab the microphone data raw, and send it out.

Re:2,200,000? (1)

Cat_Byte (621676) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935187)

I guess we're talking about 2 different things. I'm talking about real VOIP that runs on routers with Cisco IOS & stuff like that. That would be what corporations use rather than the mickey mouse software end-to-end software I would think. I've set up a couple of massive VoIP networks for companies but we didn't use any software that stored the keys locally. It was set on the hardware & changed a 64-bit key every 12 hrs randomly.

Re:2,200,000? (2, Interesting)

pvt_medic (715692) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935234)

they got 2,200,000 conversations so that very well could have been listening in for a long time on one person. But I would like to know the wiretap to arrest ratio.

VoIP can easily be encrypted.

The real question is as people more and more get high speed internet access people could easily create their own VoIP set up. One that allows people to directly connect with another computer and talk with the user there. Now granted they already have this, but people add their own encryption scheme, and before you know it there will be no more telephone companies as we know it. My telephone number will be my IP.

Money well spent. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935049)

"and approximately 80 per cent were related to drug investigations.

I make that $55,600,000, but they got that cheating Canook/Limey son of a bitch in the end [bbc.co.uk] .

Re:Money well spent. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935124)

thank goodness [bbc.co.uk] those cheats have been stopped

Re:Money well spent. (1)

Mr2cents (323101) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935178)

I still can't see why the US spend so much money on drugs related 'crimes'. Hypocrisy is THE word here. Alcohol is a hard drug. Fighter pilots get amphetamines (aka speed) to fight. But if you smoke a joint, oh my god, you're in deep shit. Why spend so much on something that doesn't harm people other than those who take it? What do those people do wrong?

FBI can already tap VoIP, just not easily (3, Insightful)

Wesley Felter (138342) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935051)

I just want to point out that the FBI can currently tap VoIP calls either at the customer side using Carnivore or at the provider's PSTN trunks thanks to CALEA. Really all they're asking for is an easier way to do it.

Re:FBI can already tap VoIP, just not easily (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935101)

Can the FBI tap encrypted PC-to-PC voice connections, such as those made with Skype software, without personally presenting a warrant to one of the parties? Remember that the FBI is not the NSA and presumably does not have the NSA's rumored magical cryptanalysis machines.

Re:FBI can already tap VoIP, just not easily (1)

Wesley Felter (138342) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935140)

Can the FBI tap encrypted PC-to-PC voice connections, such as those made with Skype software, without personally presenting a warrant to one of the parties?

Yes, I believe with a court order they can break into your house/office and replace your copy of Skype with a backdoored version. But that has nothing to do with the article, which is about IP-to-PSTN VoIP providers.

That's why we have crypto! (4, Insightful)

jrockway (229604) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935052)

That's why I'll continue to encrypt all important (and unimportant!) conversations. For email I always use GPG (regardless of how important the message is). For VoIP, if I ever use it, I'll be sure to send the voice data through encrypted channels. Frankly, there's no excuse for not encrypting everything. Let them make laws; beat them with the tech.

And when they outlaw the tech, remember that you can learn how to write encryption software yourself. See Ciphersaber [gurus.com] . There you'll learn to write your very own crypto code, and you'll remember how to do it again. I did it a few months ago and could still code something decent up :)

So don't worry about this. Just encrypt, and when encryption becomes illegal send lots of random data (netcat /dev/urandom) to your friends :) That will never be illegal, and encrypted data is the same as random data without the key!

Re:That's why we have crypto! (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935121)

"...when encryption becomes illegal send lots of random data..."

They'll probably prohibit that, also. If it isn't human readable(?) it's illegal and they'll lock you up if you don't spill the beans.

--Shut up and start talking...

Re:That's why we have crypto! (1)

corebreech (469871) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935153)

So then we use stenography to make the encrypted/random data appear to be human-readable.

Re:That's why we have crypto! (2, Funny)

corebreech (469871) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935254)

Dammit, I know... steganography.

I always make that mistake.

(or, it was a cleverly encoded message.)

Why does this matter? (4, Informative)

BigHungryJoe (737554) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935053)

Feds have had the power to get secret warrents from judges from the FISA court since 1978. These judges have never denied American law enforcement a warrant to surveil a conversation.

So under the secret and unchecked FISA court, their powers are essentially unlimited.

This just means they are going through the formality of asking permission - if they don't get it, they'll get it through FISA anyway.

The most important quote (5, Informative)

Michael Crutcher (631990) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935055)

For those who won't read the article, here's the the most important part:

"The FCC should ignore pleas about national security and sophisticated criminals because sophisticated parties will use noncompliant VoIP, available open source and offshore," said Jim Harper of Privacilla.org, a privacy advocacy Web site. "CALEA for VoIP will only be good for busting small-time bookies, small-time potheads and other nincompoops."

Mr. Harper is absolutely correct, anyone with a little bit of sophistication can think of numerous ways around this legislation. Sorry Unlce Sam but the cat's out of the bag and there is no putting it back. Of course this will still be useful at catching small time drug dealers/users, and is another example of the drug war eating away at civil liberties.

Legislative "TP". (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935210)

"Of course this will still be useful at catching small time drug dealers/users, and is another example of the drug war eating away at civil liberties."

Wars are by definition, destructive forces. Destructive to people, buildings, and liberties. It could be, just as much the "toilet paper" war.

Mandatory Zimmermann Quote: (5, Insightful)

Pyro226 (715818) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935058)

It's personal. It's private. And it's no one's business but yours. You may be planning a political campaign, discussing your taxes, or having a secret romance. Or you may be communicating with a political dissident in a repressive country. Whatever it is, you don't want your private electronic mail (email) or confidential documents read by anyone else. There's nothing wrong with asserting your privacy. Privacy is as apple-pie as the Constitution.

The right to privacy is spread implicitly throughout the Bill of Rights. But when the United States Constitution was framed, the Founding Fathers saw no need to explicitly spell out the right to a private conversation. That would have been silly. Two hundred years ago, all conversations were private. If someone else was within earshot, you could just go out behind the barn and have your conversation there. No one could listen in without your knowledge. The right to a private conversation was a natural right, not just in a philosophical sense, but in a law-of-physics sense, given the technology of the time.

But with the coming of the information age, starting with the invention of the telephone, all that has changed. Now most of our conversations are conducted electronically. This allows our most intimate conversations to be exposed without our knowledge. Cellular phone calls may be monitored by anyone with a radio. Electronic mail, sent across the Internet, is no more secure than cellular phone calls. Email is rapidly replacing postal mail, becoming the norm for everyone, not the novelty it was in the past.

Until recently, if the government wanted to violate the privacy of ordinary citizens, they had to expend a certain amount of expense and labor to intercept and steam open and read paper mail. Or they had to listen to and possibly transcribe spoken telephone conversation, at least before automatic voice recognition technology became available. This kind of labor-intensive monitoring was not practical on a large scale. It was only done in important cases when it seemed worthwhile. This is like catching one fish at a time, with a hook and line. Today, email can be routinely and automatically scanned for interesting keywords, on a vast scale, without detection. This is like driftnet fishing. And exponential growth in computer power is making the same thing possible with voice traffic.

Perhaps you think your email is legitimate enough that encryption is unwarranted. If you really are a law-abiding citizen with nothing to hide, then why don't you always send your paper mail on postcards? Why not submit to drug testing on demand? Why require a warrant for police searches of your house? Are you trying to hide something? If you hide your mail inside envelopes, does that mean you must be a subversive or a drug dealer, or maybe a paranoid nut? Do law-abiding citizens have any need to encrypt their email?

What if everyone believed that law-abiding citizens should use postcards for their mail? If a nonconformist tried to assert his privacy by using an envelope for his mail, it would draw suspicion. Perhaps the authorities would open his mail to see what he's hiding. Fortunately, we don't live in that kind of world, because everyone protects most of their mail with envelopes. So no one draws suspicion by asserting their privacy with an envelope. There's safety in numbers. Analogously, it would be nice if everyone routinely used encryption for all their email, innocent or not, so that no one drew suspicion by asserting their email privacy with encryption. Think of it as a form of solidarity.

Senate Bill 266, a 1991 omnibus anticrime bill, had an unsettling measure buried in it. If this non-binding resolution had become real law, it would have forced manufacturers of secure communications equipment to insert special "trap doors" in their products, so that the government could read anyone's encrypted messages. It reads, "It is the sense of Congress that providers of electronic communications services and manufacturers of electronic communications service equipment shall ensure that communications systems permit the government to obtain the plain text contents of voice, data, and other communications when appropriately authorized by law." It was this bill that led me to publish PGP electronically for free that year, shortly before the measure was defeated after vigorous protest by civil libertarians and industry groups.

The 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) mandated that phone companies install remote wiretapping ports into their central office digital switches, creating a new technology infrastructure for "point-and-click" wiretapping, so that federal agents no longer have to go out and attach alligator clips to phone lines. Now they will be able to sit in their headquarters in Washington and listen in on your phone calls. Of course, the law still requires a court order for a wiretap. But while technology infrastructures can persist for generations, laws and policies can change overnight. Once a communications infrastructure optimized for surveillance becomes entrenched, a shift in political conditions may lead to abuse of this new-found power. Political conditions may shift with the election of a new government, or perhaps more abruptly from the bombing of a federal building.

A year after the CALEA passed, the FBI disclosed plans to require the phone companies to build into their infrastructure the capacity to simultaneously wiretap 1 percent of all phone calls in all major U.S. cities. This would represent more than a thousandfold increase over previous levels in the number of phones that could be wiretapped. In previous years, there were only about a thousand court-ordered wiretaps in the United States per year, at the federal, state, and local levels combined. It's hard to see how the government could even employ enough judges to sign enough wiretap orders to wiretap 1 percent of all our phone calls, much less hire enough federal agents to sit and listen to all that traffic in real time. The only plausible way of processing that amount of traffic is a massive Orwellian application of automated voice recognition technology to sift through it all, searching for interesting keywords or searching for a particular speaker's voice. If the government doesn't find the target in the first 1 percent sample, the wiretaps can be shifted over to a different 1 percent until the target is found, or until everyone's phone line has been checked for subversive traffic. The FBI said they need this capacity to plan for the future. This plan sparked such outrage that it was defeated in Congress. But the mere fact that the FBI even asked for these broad powers is revealing of their agenda.

Advances in technology will not permit the maintenance of the status quo, as far as privacy is concerned. The status quo is unstable. If we do nothing, new technologies will give the government new automatic surveillance capabilities that Stalin could never have dreamed of. The only way to hold the line on privacy in the information age is strong cryptography.

You don't have to distrust the government to want to use cryptography. Your business can be wiretapped by business rivals, organized crime, or foreign governments. Several foreign governments, for example, admit to using their signals intelligence against companies from other countries to give their own corporations a competitive edge. Ironically, the United States government's restrictions on cryptography in the 1990's have weakened U.S. corporate defenses against foreign intelligence and organized crime.

The government knows what a pivotal role cryptography is destined to play in the power relationship with its people. In April 1993, the Clinton administration unveiled a bold new encryption policy initiative, which had been under development at the National Security Agency (NSA) since the start of the Bush administration. The centerpiece of this initiative was a government-built encryption device, called the Clipper chip, containing a new classified NSA encryption algorithm. The government tried to encourage private industry to design it into all their secure communication products, such as secure phones, secure faxes, and so on. AT&T put Clipper into its secure voice products. The catch: At the time of manufacture, each Clipper chip is loaded with its own unique key, and the government gets to keep a copy, placed in escrow. Not to worry, though-the government promises that they will use these keys to read your traffic only "when duly authorized by law." Of course, to make Clipper completely effective, the next logical step would be to outlaw other forms of cryptography.

The government initially claimed that using Clipper would be voluntary, that no one would be forced to use it instead of other types of cryptography. But the public reaction against the Clipper chip was strong, stronger than the government anticipated. The computer industry monolithically proclaimed its opposition to using Clipper. FBI director Louis Freeh responded to a question in a press conference in 1994 by saying that if Clipper failed to gain public support, and FBI wiretaps were shut out by non-government-controlled cryptography, his office would have no choice but to seek legislative relief. Later, in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City tragedy, Mr. Freeh testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that public availability of strong cryptography must be curtailed by the government (although no one had suggested that cryptography was used by the bombers).

The government has a track record that does not inspire confidence that they will never abuse our civil liberties. The FBI's COINTELPRO program targeted groups that opposed government policies. They spied on the antiwar movement and the civil rights movement. They wiretapped the phone of Martin Luther King Jr. Nixon had his enemies list. Then there was the Watergate mess. More recently, Congress has either attempted to or succeeded in passing laws curtailing our civil liberties on the Internet. Some elements of the Clinton White House collected confidential FBI files on Republican civil servants, conceivably for political exploitation. And some overzealous prosecutors have shown a willingness to go to the ends of the Earth in pursuit of exposing sexual indiscretions of political enemies. At no time in the past century has public distrust of the government been so broadly distributed across the political spectrum, as it is today.

Throughout the 1990s, I figured that if we want to resist this unsettling trend in the government to outlaw cryptography, one measure we can apply is to use cryptography as much as we can now while it's still legal. When use of strong cryptography becomes popular, it's harder for the government to criminalize it. Therefore, using PGP is good for preserving democracy. If privacy is outlawed, only outlaws will have privacy.

It appears that the deployment of PGP must have worked, along with years of steady public outcry and industry pressure to relax the export controls. In the closing months of 1999, the Clinton administration announced a radical shift in export policy for crypto technology. They essentially threw out the whole export control regime. Now, we are finally able to export strong cryptography, with no upper limits on strength. It has been a long struggle, but we have finally won, at least on the export control front in the US. Now we must continue our efforts to deploy strong crypto, to blunt the effects increasing surveillance efforts on the Internet by various governments. And we still need to entrench our right to use it domestically over the objections of the FBI.

PGP empowers people to take their privacy into their own hands. There has been a growing social need for it. That's why I wrote it.

Philip R. Zimmermann Boulder, Colorado June 1991 (updated 1999)

"Two hundred years ago.." (1)

kid-noodle (669957) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935095)

"Two hundred years ago, all conversations were private."

Interesting. Written communications weren't, so why say nothing about them I wonder? Stenography & cryptography were already in common use back then...

Re:"Two hundred years ago.." (2, Informative)

2short (466733) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935152)

I'd say they did say something about them:
<br><br>
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, <b>papers</b>, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated..."
<br><br>
I'd have to agree with the original poster that the only reason "conversations" isn't in the list is that no one imagined they could be unreasonably "searched" in the first place.

Re:"Two hundred years ago.." (1)

kid-noodle (669957) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935230)

I should really read the constitution ;)

Beg pardon due to non-Americanness ;)

tapping UDP is hard (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935059)

What are they going to do, dump all the datagrams, and how are they going to pick the filter parameters? Given dialup and DHCP dynamic IP assignments, this would be like trying to pipette from a firehose. Even NetMeeting's rendevous protocol is dynamic....

At least with this fact in play we'll probably see some more decent voip encryption.

They'll only catch amateurs... (4, Interesting)

El (94934) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935060)

Wouldn't any real criminal run his VoIP through a VPN or some other encrypted tunnel, thus making difficult for the Feds to know that it is a VoIP session, let alone decrypt it and understand it? See, the problem with PCs is that they are general purpose devices that allow you to execute arbitrary algorithms -- or even add proprietary hardware to do hardware encryption. So, other than knowing what IP address a suspect is talking to, what good is the wiretap going to do them?

Re:They'll only catch amateurs... (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935177)

They'll only catch amateurs...

That's all they want to catch. The pros work with/for the gov't.

Criminals are stupid, that's why they get caught (1)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935239)

Wouldn't any real criminal run his VoIP through a VPN or some other encrypted tunnel ...

No. Criminals generally do dumb things and get caught, even the more intelligent ones. They only need to make one mistake. That is law enforcements advantage. Crime can be a pretty unforgiving profession.

Also, who says the amateurs, less sophisticated, less tech savvy aren't worth catching?

Re:They'll only catch amateurs... (1)

molafson (716807) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935256)

Wouldn't any real criminal run his VoIP through a VPN or some other encrypted tunnel, thus making difficult for the Feds to know that it is a VoIP session, let alone decrypt it and understand it?

Of course, that's how it would work theoretically. However, even the most sophisticated enemies of the US government will occasionally slip-up and create soft openings that can be targeted. For instance, IIRC Nazi and Soviet agents both at some point mistakenly reused their one-time pads (or some such), giving the US vital information to be used to attack their encrypted communications.

That is why the government thinks it necessary to tap VoIP -- because one slip-up on the part of their enemies could bring down the whole house of cards.

How do they propose... (4, Interesting)

forevermore (582201) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935064)

How do they propose to tap VOIP conversations over private networks? I can understand how federal regulations might get them permission to tap into the networks of the growing VOIP phone providers, but a lot of people (companies, geeks) set up their own internal VOIP networks over IPSEC, secure VLAN's and other such things that would be nearly(?) impossible to detect as VOIP traffic. Not to mention p2p type VOIP clients like those built into the various instant messenging programs that are, well, peer to peer, and don't go through some central server.

Hmm... (4, Funny)

Loki_1929 (550940) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935066)

I almost feel like setting up two VoIP lines, using one to call the other, then have a perpetually repeating recording playing over the line with every keyword and phrase they could possibly be looking for interspersed with me screaming "HA HA! GOTCHA! GET BACK TO DOING SOMETHING USEFUL!" .

Hang on, there's a knock at [Lost comm with host]

Not quite... (1)

UPAAntilles (693635) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935247)

There's a problem with that. The FBI isn't listening to every phone conversation in the US for key words, and they treat VoIP the same as regular phone conversations. So before they "listened in" they would have to prove to a judge that they had a reason to suspect you were doing something violating federal law. So unless you were really a federal criminal, you're only wasting your bandwidth.

Bottom Line (1)

ghettoboy22 (723339) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935073)

If you're of the tin-foil hat variety, simply use a strong-cipher on your VoIP (no commercial providers - do it yourself) calls and all will be well. Something 400+bit ought to do the job. Make the cipher randomly changing (after every call definatly; during the call if you can configure it) and NO ONE will be listening unless you want them to.

Re:Bottom Line (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935145)

I work for the NSA, and I probably shouldn't be telling you this, but we can crack a 768 bit asymmetric encryption key in about 40 seconds.

Don't forget that we are the number 1 purchaser of computer hardware in the world and the number 1 employer of graduating math majors.

providing material benefit to "terrorists." (2, Insightful)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935077)

I think it is a lost cause to try to stem the abuse of freedom and rights that government snoops are swarming around like coyotes around some road kill. But VoIP should be much easier for the Common Man to encrypt a la PGP (yes, I understand it would be some other software solution...) I know, I know, why should we have to? Well, I imagine just discussion of this issue could get you labeled as providing material benefit to "terrorists."

Re:providing material benefit to "terrorists." (1)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935118)

errr, I ment "hardware solution"

Re:providing material benefit to "terrorists." (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935212)

"...encrypt a la PGP..."

Something tells me the NSA already cracked PGP. We won't know about it for years until something better comes along. How long was the F-117 stealth fighter just another UFO before they revealed it to the press?

ipsec (2, Interesting)

SHEENmaster (581283) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935079)

ipsec, ssh tunneling, and VPN configurations can all prevent this with no change to existing code.

Is anyone else outraged that the feds spent $63 million just wiretapping phones for a black market that they created? 1.) Make a drug black-market. 2.) Spend $63 million wiretapping phone investigating the market. 3.) ??? 4.) profit!

Re:ipsec (1)

PatientZero (25929) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935258)

C'mon, you can be more clever than that! Here are three options off the top of my head.
  • Join the market with your CIA connections.
  • Invest in one of the many corporations profiting from the prison system (e.g. Haliburton).
  • Start a career in enforcement and push for more $$ to be spent on it.

Isn't anyone else concerned that we spend millions of dollars attempting to squelch a contrived black market? It's only worse that the majority of the so-called drug-related problems (and the worse ones) are caused by the criminalization of the drugs, not the drugs themselves.

Re:ipsec (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935259)

"...Spend $63 million wiretapping phone investigating the market...."

I know... They always seem to call during dinnertime. "Hi, this is Bush inc. just reminding you that the price of coke has never been lower. You can be eligable for a 20% discount if you just give us a list of your buyers..."

Recycle arguments-PROFIT!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935264)

"Is anyone else outraged that the feds spent $63 million just wiretapping phones for a black market that they created? 1.) Make a drug black-market. 2.) Spend $63 million wiretapping phone investigating the market. 3.) ??? 4.) profit!"

Oh lookie! The pro/anti-drug argument (another kind of war) makes an apperance. Quick! Outlaw the argument.

3-????

4-Well someone will figure out how to make money, or at least a better discusion.

This is BULLSHIT. Here's the WORK-AROUND. (-1, Troll)

Amsterdam Vallon (639622) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935091)

Someone listening to your VoIP calls?

I have successfully done the following in a lab environment and am working on a paper that will be published later this year. I have extensive research in computer security, networks, and telephony.

You have two options as of right now (January 2004):

1) Tunnel through SSH. Make secure calls.
2) Set-up or gain access to a VPN. Make secure calls.


Reply if you have any questions about techniques/code/environments/etc.

MOD PARENT UP +1 INFORMATIVE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935133)

It's true, it works.

Re:This is BULLSHIT. Here's the WORK-AROUND. (0)

tofubar (631690) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935157)

My friend was concerned with his privacy (his communications had been tapped in the past) and we used SSH to provide security for our voice communications. It's a reliable system and so far we have no complaints. SSH is a great system for secure calls. VoIP networks should implement SSH.

Skype (2, Informative)

Minkey Brines (584079) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935094)

From www.skype.com:

Skype is free and simple software that will enable you to make free calls anywhere in the world in minutes. Skype, created by the people who brought you KaZaA uses innovative P2P (peer-to-peer) technology to connect you with other Skype users. If you are tired of paying outrageous fees for telephony, Skype is for you!

Skype is quick and easy to install. Just download it, register, and within minutes you can plug in your PC headset and call your friends on Skype. Skype calls have excellent sound quality and are highly secure with end-to-end encryption. Best of all, Skype does not require you to reconfigure your firewall or router--it just works!

Re:Skype (2, Funny)

relrelrel (737051) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935183)

ironic, seeing as its probably filled with spyware if its from kazaa, and they'd sell to the highest bidder.

That is only 31.59$US per wiretap. Not bad. (1)

barries (15577) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935104)

That seems far too cheap. Can you buy wiretaps in bulk?

'scuse me maam, where are your wiretaps?

Aisle three, right next to the pinhole cameras and poison darts.

2,200,000 conversations, NOT total wiretaps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935175)

That's 2,200,000 conversations. A wiretap will take in 3000 to 5000 conversations each, so that's probably 400 to 800 wiretaps for the whole country. It is VERY difficult for an investigator to get a warrant for a wire tap approved.

Official government documents... (4, Informative)

scrod (136965) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935116)

For the past few weeks Cryptome [cryptome.org] has featured a link to an FBI document [why-war.com] detailing the means by which such surveillance might take place. This is all just additional evidence that those wanting real security must implement (or at least verify) it themselves.

80%?? (5, Insightful)

EvilDrew (523879) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935129)

"Wiretaps for that year cost taxpayers $69.5 million, and approximately 80 per cent were related to drug investigations."

This would, of course, be a terrific argument in my mind, to just get over ourselves and find a better way to deal with drugs; i.e. make them legal in such a way so that people can have a good time and not pose too much of a threat to society (such as the laws pertaining to alcohol). 'Course that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Calm Down (1)

Ashcrow (469400) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935141)

This is just double plus good!

Re:Calm Down (1)

digital bath (650895) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935248)

Until the ministry of love gets you...

ah yes (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935150)

the wonderful us govt, looking out for its' citizens, their lovely declaration of govt by the people for the people.. which is being eroded every second of the day.

god bless america!

you're pathetic. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935202)

You yanks have the most stupid goverment in the world, and i really mean that, as in, completely embarassing, now, i know you were stupid the first time `round, but if you vote Bush in again i`ll personally fly a plane into your asses.

Encryption ain't it all tapped out to be... (2, Interesting)

UPAAntilles (693635) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935211)

Sure, for a few conversations between buddies, encryption would baffle an individual. However, this is the US government-with tons of money to throw around...they'll find ways around encryption. Usama's satellite phone was "encrypted", but the NSA could crack it easily enough. If it becomes a great enough need, the government would find out how to decrypt it. They wouldn't brute force either. When the British found the Enigma machine, the US and British intelligence services reverse engineered it and then used it for the remainder of the war. Same thing would happen here: If the case was high-profile enough, the FBI would find the program used and reverse engineer it so they could thwart the encryption. I'm willing to bet that Nautlius (Blowfish) has already been cracked by the CIA/FBI/NSA, and that they have their own proprietary software for VoIP tapping. The only way to avoid it would be to design your own encryption software, and then make sure it doesn't fall into the US Military's/FBI's/NSA's/CIA's hands. Those agencies employ some of the best hackers/programmers in the field, and it would be near impossible to keep multiple VoIP conversations encrypted without changing software every conversation (and even then, you would have to have every conversation based on the understanding that those may be decrypted later.) This is because of the open structure of the internet.

Re:Encryption ain't it all tapped out to be... (1)

linuxbikr (699873) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935242)

Not if machine speeds reach the point where you can do RSA 2048 and 4096 bit encryption in real time. Do that and the NSA, FBI or anyone else won't listening to your conversations for a very, very, very long time.

Remember, the NSA is not chartered for domestic surveillance. That is technically a crime. Domestic surveillance is the domain of the FBI (although they could ask the NSA for decryption help).

Using public key cryptography with 2048 bits renders your conversations effectively private. The FBI would have to seize both machines at the end of such a VoIP conversation and get the private keys to decrypt the traffic in a timeframe under 100,000 years. :) Quantum computers don't exist yet (which could crack RSA in the blink of an eye), so things are pretty safe.

a little story (0)

relrelrel (737051) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935220)

/me goes to neighbour's house with my shotgun, i knock on neighbours door and tell him to give me the keys to his car, he asks 'why?', i reply 'well, i'm not entirely sure that it's road-worthy, and i don't want you crashing into my house, so give me your keys and i'll take it for a ride, now, you're going to give me the keys right? otherwise it's obvious you have something to hide, i guess your car isn't road worthy, omg you know its dangerous and want it to crash into my house, you son of a bitch! *bang*..0.7 seconds..*bang*

Totally offtopic but (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7935223)

Christ, $56 million a year to tap phones checking for people selling drugs? At some point doesn't it just become cheaper for the federal government to just step in, contact the drug dealers, buy all the drugs they have, and destroy them??

tap voip.. bwahahahah (1)

sPaKr (116314) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935231)

Jebus, we need to unleash the pain on these feds. What are they going todo when we start running ipsec tunnels for all our voip connections? What is more scary? The fact that they want to do all of these big brother things? Or that the old techonolgy systems allowed them to do these things?

This has far-reaching implications (4, Informative)

Graabein (96715) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935260)

First, please allow me to plug a site I help run: IAXprovider.net [iaxprovider.net] , a community site for people running VoIP services on Asterisk [asterisk.org] , the open source Linux PBX. We follow this issue closely. Thank you.

BTW, this same article is also available [com.com] over on news.com.com. Anyway, lemme quote:

"The agencies have asked the Federal Communications Commission to order companies offering voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service to rewire their networks to guarantee police the ability to eavesdrop on subscribers' conversations."

Think about that one for a minute. How is a VoIP provider going to ensure that? There is only one way, turn off and disable all use of encryption in their VoIP network, unless the provider has access to the keys used.

Now think of IM networks, email servers, or just about any other Internet service. What are they going to do, outlaw all "non-sanctioned" client software using encryption? Are we gearing up for another Clipper Chip fiasco here?

FCC chairman Michael Powell has just come down on the side of VoIP providers [cnn.com] saying, in part:

"Rapidly expanding voice communications over the Internet should be protected from excessive government regulation and from being pigeonholed as simple phone service". He goes on to say "harm from misregulation of VoIP could take "decades to fix."

"You [can] create a very hostile regulatory environment for voice-over-IP providers in the United States," Powell said.

He added "there is nothing to stop" the companies from moving to other countries and setting up computer systems to serve U.S. customers.

Exactly. Welcome to the Internet age.

Misleading...Onlt 1358 Authorized Wiretaps! (1)

N8F8 (4562) | more than 10 years ago | (#7935266)

The article is extremely misleading. It quotes "conversations" but the important statistic is the number of authorized State and Federal wiretaps [epic.org] ...only 1358. The average number of conversations per wiretap exceeds 2000!
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