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IDC report highlights danger of optical hacking

InfoGuard : 04 August, 2009  (Technical Article)
Many organisations face danger of losing critical data from fibre optic links as hackers gain easier access to unprotected networks
A new IDC Technology Assessment has been released that highlights the dangers of illegal optical tapping on mission critical and sensitive information as it passes over fibre optic networks.

The report entitled, 'Fiber Optic Networks: Is Safety Just an Optical Illusion?' by IDC Research Analyst Romain Fouchereau states, "Fiber-optic cable networks have been deemed the fastest, most reliable, and most secure way of transporting data through the network for decades. This reputation has now been proven wrong for several years with the arrival of new and inexpensive technologies making data theft easily available to hackers."

Fouchereau, a specialist in firewall/VPN, IDS/IPS, and unified threat management, believes, "Corporate espionage is real and needs to be seriously taken into account in the security plans for every organization. Securing the inside network is not sufficient enough, data going from one site to the other can be intercepted and this security gap needs to be addressed."

The report sites examples including a taps on the optical networks of Verizon and Deutsche Telekom as well as a major optical hack and data breach at the Hannaford supermarket chain that resulted in the theft of around 4.2 million credit and debit card details.

Fouchereau states, "As it is impossible to monitor the entire optical fiber network, the only real preventive solution to protect information is to encrypt the data before it goes through the network. At this point, the only thing that will prevent information from being poached for industrial espionage is if the encryption renders the data acquired unusable by the hackers."

"Due to the sensitive nature of the information carried — being from financial institutions, insurance companies, public administration, or in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries — it is paramount that the privacy and reliability of the information carried are guaranteed, as the stakes and risks involved are high." He adds.

Thomas Meier, CEO of InfoGuard, a leader in high-performance encryption solutions, commented, "This report is good for the business community as a whole as it states in clear and unequivocal language that high risk firms need to protect data in transit, especially as more organisations share resources to achieve new business processes or meet compliance requirements."

Swiss based InfoGuard offer a range of encryption appliances for Point-to-Point and Multipoint networks supporting speeds from 20Mb/s to 10Gb/s designed in accordance with the EAL3 Common Criteria Security Standard and FIPS 140-2 Level 3 requirements. The most advanced InfoGuard Multilink product uses AES 256 and can simultaneously encrypt data from ten different signals supporting common interfaces such as Fibre Channel, FICON and Ethernet via C/DWDM, Dark Fibre or SDH networks, with a latency of less than 5µs.

"Optical hacking has been around for many years but few people are prepared to openly talk about the fact that fibre optic links are not as secure as the service providers would like us to believe," Meier adds.
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