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November 3, 2015

Deutsche Telekom goes back to security basics with wire-tapping protection

News: German telco looks to physical landscape as weak link in the chain.

By Alexander Sword

In the era of escalating and sophisticated cyber-attacks it’s easy to forget that old-fashioned wiretapping is still a threat – but Deutsche Telekom is launching a service to tackle it.

The German telco is now offering specialist technicians to screen offices and conference rooms for eavesdropping technology and weak spots.

Using equipment such as X-rays, they can examine office paraphernalia, telephones, USB sticks. They also look at electrical wiring.

The specialists will also measure radio frequencies to find hidden transmitters and can detect unsecured DECT phones (the cordless phones that connect to a base station).

Deutsche Telekom is positioning itself in a potentially expanding niche; while digital communications face significant threats, the physical landscape of wireless and wired communications can also leak sensitive information.

"People forget that all technology radiates something, so there is the potential to eavesdrop on lots of things," says Rob Bamforth, Principal Analyst at Quocirca. "The way mobile communications are done, if it’s transmitted wirelessly it can be vulnerable. Inductance and radio waves are quite leaky."

Bamforth says that Deutsche Telekom‘s expertise in telecoms puts it in a particularly strong position to offer this kind of service.

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"A company with that expertise and understanding of transmission would be in a good position to offer a service.

"Security is a cross-spectrum problem. The weak links extend to both physical and digital spectrum. This type of service is increasingly going to be of interest."

The Deutsche Telekom service will also counter new security threats proposed by the Internet of Things. Bob Tarzey, Principal Analyst at Quocirca, says:

"As more and more of [network connected consumer devices] include embedded connectivity, it will indeed become easier to substitute an innocent kettle, camera or TV screen for one that looks the same but has been tampered with."

The service is aimed at protecting large and medium-sized businesses from industrial espionage; a report commissioned by McAfee and conducted by Washington think-tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimated the annual cost to the world economy of espionage at $445 billion.

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