CallManager update offers end-to-end security

The networking vendor's CallManager update extends encryption to IP phones, offering a VoIP security option that resembles traditional distributed computing environments.

Cisco Systems Inc. today announced new features designed to boost the level of security for companies using its VoIP products.

Cisco's new CallManager 4.1 call-processing software extends encryption to its new and installed base of 7940G and 7960G IP phones. It provides both signaling encryption, which protects voice signaling packets, and media encryption to protect the calls themselves.

Cisco is now treating voice security like security for any other distributed computing environment, said Zeus Kerravala, vice president of enterprise infrastructure at Boston.-based research firm Yankee Group.

"Security is extended all the way to the end point. It's not just encryption," Kerravala said.

Cisco is also integrating voice security with its overall network security strategy. As part of its Self-Defending Network program, Cisco is folding more security and intelligence into network devices, moving security away from the edge and back toward the core of the network.

As part of that strategy, CallManager is designed to work in conjunction with Cisco Media Gateway IP communication management appliances, including the company's line of all-in-one Integrated Services Routers.

Kerravala said Cisco's decision to secure the phone itself, as well as the data en route, will help it to fend off the more sophisticated attacks that are likely to target voice systems in the future.

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"Today there are viruses that target Microsoft SQL Server or Microsoft Exchange," Kerravala said. "As voice matures, we will see the same thing. There may be applications designed to take the directory out of a Cisco phone and broadcast it all over."

In that environment, Kerravala said, VoIP systems need the same kind of end-to-end security that companies use with their data systems. Cisco has beaten other vendors to this approach, he said.

Cisco's voice system recently received a rating of "secure" during an independent test conducted by Cranbury, N.J.-based Miercom, a network consultancy and test lab. Cisco's rating was the highest of all vendors tested.

Cisco CallManager software, including a Cisco Media Convergence Server, starts at $5,995. CallManager 4.1 is a free upgrade for CallManager 4.0 customers.

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