What is CALEA?
CALEA, or the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, is the law that oversees telecommunication security which has now been expanded to Internet security. The FBI has been working to specify what is expected of wired and wireless ISPs, which has yet to be released in final form. There are some fairly harsh federal penalties for noncompliance that become effective in May 2007 (the stick). In the spirit of protecting our nation, the mission is not to make life miserable and expensive for operators and thwart communications, but rather to give the FBI and homeland security tools to wire tap (if I can borrow the term) Internet conversation on a moment’s notice. I suspect it would be a rare occurrence for a small WISP to receive a warrant to comply, but it would be potentially devastating to security should the means to monitor conversation not be available. In the words of a consultant working for CALEA and the FBI, here is the verbatim minimal requirement as we obtained via e-mail in order to determine our obligations as a Network Tool supplier.
“Basically, an interception warrant would need to isolate and capture all communications to or from the subject of the warrant. The warrant could specify that only header information is to be provided (i.e., a Pen Register/Trap and Tracee) or that header information and communications content should both be provided. “The Packet Technologies and Services Committee (PTSC) has developed standard ATIS-1000013.2007 for CALEA compliance for landline ISPs (including WiFi and WiMAX). Unfortunately, ATIS has not yet posted the standard on its web site (www.atis.org).”
Our promise to our customers will be to provide a minimal compliance utility on our NetEqualizer Platform and support these utilities without adding additional cost to the product, if possible.
Below is a Q&A regarding our plans.
When will the NetEqualizer CALEA compliance module be available?
We will have a “best effort” unit available for trial as of May 1. We caveat this as best effort because there may be some lag time to comply exactly with the requirement once the requirement is finalized and posted. However, there is enough information right now to get close to compliance, which is what we plan to do.
Will there be any additional cost?
At this time all customers with current NSS (software upgrade licenses) will not be charged. The NSS license for one year runs approximately 10 percent of the purchase cost of a new unit. Typically this would be in the $200 to $300 range.
Will the CALEA module ship with newly purchased units?
Yes, in fact any units purchased after March 20 will be eligible to receive the upgrade at no extra cost.
Will the upgrade cost for the CALEA module always remain the same?
We cannot promise a fixed price for future upgrades. If the complexity of this feature gets “out of hand,” we may have to label a “nonstandard” upgrade and charge, essentially making it a new product rather than an upgrade and charge accordingly.At this time our plans are to keep it as a standard upgrade.
Will the standard NetEqualizer feature and the CALEA utility run on the same hardware at the same time?
Due to the sensitive nature of the information should a warrant be requested for a tap, we have decided it would be best to focus on getting the stream to the federal agency. For this reason, the NetEqualizer will fall back to standard bridge mode. Obviously this may slow or degrade service to all customers, however this will be a rare event if ever and we’d rather do it this way than force customers to purchase an all new standalone appliance.