1012 ioca - Electronic Definition Acronym for ioca

Meaning and Definition for ioca


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ioca - interception of communications act
electronics weekly 4th aug 99

Are you and `arf-a- dozen of yer chinas down the East End planning a bank job? Are
you worried about the old Bill listening in on your dog-and- bone?
No problem, my son. Today you can get instant, off-the-shelf, secure communications that will cost you only the price of a drink. Just buy a few pre-pay mobile phones down at Dixons. Set up a free Internet account, preferably with ready-made encryption software. The police will have no idea who owns them, or which company is transmitting your conversations. Throw your equipment away afterwards, and most of the incriminating evidence is gone forever.
This is the problem now facing the police. Because of the boom in new types of telecoms networks and the Internet, they can no longer reliably eavesdrop on criminal activities through telephone tapping - or so claims the Home Office.
What to do? Police authority to listen in on suspects` phone conversations comes from the Interception of Communications Act.
Passed in 1985, the IOCA merely confirmed the decades-old gentleman`s agreement between the former GPO (which operated the public switched network), the exchange suppliers such as GEC and Plessey, and the Home Office. It enables the police to get a warrant to monitor any fixed subscriber line owned by a public telecommunications operator, using purpose-built functions in the BT switch.
But the IOCA`s authors had obviously never heard of cellphones, satellites, the Internet, or even cable. They completely ignored the existence of private voice or data networks, which were much rarer and more localised then than they are today, and which now carry a substantial amount of public traffic for much of its journey.
An even bigger limitation is that the IOCA warrants only apply to licensed public telecommunications operators, whereas the industry now contains many unlicensed service providers. It, and the crooks, have moved on, and the Home Office now wants to move with them.
So last month it produced a consultation paper outlining its plans for an extended IOCA, and sent it for comments to the telecoms industry - an industry now
consisting of cellular network operators, Internet service providers, about 150 fixed line phone companies (rather than two when IOCA was written), bandwidth-resale companies, and private network owners.
These firms are now in some panic. Not only will the reborn IOCA require all firms to install new infrastructure - capable of secretly monitoring the entire traffic of any of their customers within a few minutes of receiving a warrant - but it will also demand that the operators themselves pay the entire cost of this privilege. As the consultation paper puts it, "... communication service providers will be required to take reasonable steps to ensure that their system is capable of being intercepted. This will be an ongoing requirement which CSPs will have to consider each time they develop their network or introduce new services" .
The costs will run into millions. And some of the functions that the Home Office is demanding cannot be delivrred at all using current technology, said Keith Mitchell,
chairman of the LINX association of Internet service providers.
"The requirements were constructed by police officers who seem to have assumed that the Internet works just like the voice telephone network, which it doesn`t at all," he said. "They want listening devices installed on every Internet backbone router. Personally, I don`t see how that could be done, but even if it could, it might be open to abuse and could potentially compromise the overall security of the Internet.
"Some of the services they want could degrade the performance seen by someone who was being monitored, and it`s quite possible that they could detect that they were being monitored as a result. "
Such performance penalties would affect the innocent Internet user too, he adds.
So, of course, would the cost - estimated at between 20 and 40 per cent of the total infrastructure costs of a typical ISP - which would be passed on to customers. Some ISPS would probably even have to re-design their backbones to match the topology assumptions made in the proposals, he said.
"It`s most unfair that they are proposing service Providers should pay for
this," he said. "Some of the technology isn`t available off the shelf yet, so it`s not just a
question of ISPs going out and buying a box. The equipment manufacturers would have to commit R&D money to develop it."
The cellphone operators are equally alarmed, and much less well prepared. The Federation of Communications Services, the mobile operators` trade association, has not yet agreed on its response. It is still consulting its members and trying to work out the financial impact on their business, said Chris Webb, an FCS spokesman: "What is certain is that it will affect both the service providers and the networks quite dramatically."
It is expected that some of the larger networks - those linked to telecoms companies who have dealt with the Home Office for many years - will have seen this coming and made at least some preparations for it. But the smaller operators have been caught completely on the hop.
And re-engineering their network management systems is not the only issue: operators are privately worried about how the new legislation will affect their rela- tions with customers, too.
"It will be a tricky balancing act to convince our subscribers we are respecting their confidentiality at the same time as we have to work in the new framework," said one.
To forestall objections, the Home Office is trying to bluff the industry into believing that "these proposals are consistent with existing legislation and practice in many other countries including France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the USA, Canada and Australia". But this is being economical with the truth.
"What they mean is that other countries have signed up for this, but not implemented it yet," said Mitchell. He warns that the UK is in severe danger of giving its Internet industry the most stringent monitoring requirements in the world.
"Other countries will then choose not to route their traffic through here for fear that confidentiality safeguards will be breached, and that could be very harmful to our infor- mation economy."

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