Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Thursday, June 16, 2005

NTC says RP now ready for 3G services


Unlike local telephone companies (telcos), the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) believes that the Philippines is ready for Third Generation (3G) services.

But while NTC is inclined to categorize 3G services as mere enhancements of the existing 2G technology, it intends to encourage free competition and does not want to limit 3G licenses to existing cellular mobile telephone service (CMTS) operators.

"The Commission believes that the proposed allocation of 3G frequency bands cannot be limited to existing CMTS franchise holders and licensees nor can the "prior operator rule" be invoked to foreclose the participation of other telecommunications entities able to provide 3G services to the public," Commissioner Ronald Olivar Solis stated in the revised 3G circular issued the other day.

He pointed out that as a result of the roll-out requirement of existing operators, more than 6.6 million local exchange lines have been deployed nationwide. However, less than half, or about 3.3 million, of these lines were actually subscribed to by individual households.

However, "even though the Commission is cognizant of the waning demand for local exchange lines and believes that there is presently a need to rethink the wisdom behind the imposition of the rollout requirement, it is bound to implement existing policy as directed by E.O. No. 109 and R.A. No. 7925 to achieve universal service."

Hence, prospective 3G licensees are to be subjected to the same obligations for universal service imposed on current CMTS operators employing the 2G system.

Nevertheless, the service requirement need not be as prohibitive since the applicant may now establish public call centers in lieu of individual telephone landlines in order to sufficiently comply with their obligation under E.O. No. 109 and R.A. No. 7925.

Furthermore, the commission has revised its spectrum user fee structure to be more flexible, from P450 Million per bandwidth for 3G radio frequency bands to a graduated scale based on the number of frequency bandwidths which are to be applied for and used by the 3G licensees.

Tech is PLDT’s lynchpin for success in 2005, says chairman

By Erwin Lemuel Oliva INQ7.net

DOMINANT telecommunications carrier Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) clearly considers information technology its lynchpin for success in 2005.
Presenting PLDT’s outlook and objectives for 2005, its chairman Manuel Pangilinan stressed that the inevitable adoption of major technological innovations like voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and third generation (3G) mobile communications by telephone companies worldwide will change the business direction of the 76-year-old telephone company.

With a market value in excess of 267 billion pesos (4.8 billion dollars in 2004), PLDT is not taking this major shift sitting down, with Pangilinan hinting at massive preparations by PLDT to use these technological innovations towards market dominance.

read more . . .

Monday, June 13, 2005

Bill to curb cybersex filed in Congress

Mulls ban on chat rooms, erotic stories

By Maila Ager INQ7.net

A BILL seeking to prohibit the proliferation of pornographic materials on the Internet, including viewing, reading and writing "sexually explicit letters and stories" has been filed at the House of Representatives.
Pampanga Representative Jesus Reynaldo Aquino has filed House Bill 4386 titled “An act prohibiting the proliferation of indecency using the different forms of information technology.”

Under the bill, it would be unlawful for any person to engage in any form of pornographic exploitation, using any form of information technology.

"For the purpose of this act, 'cybersex' shall include but [is] not limited to activities pertaining not only to viewing and/or downloading pornography, but also to reading and writing sexually explicit letters and stories, emailing to set up personal meetings with someone, placing advertisements to meet sexual partners, visiting sexually-oriented chat rooms, and engaging in interactive sexual online affairs for a free or for an consideration," it said.

Aquino's bill also prohibits any person from maintaining a business or establishment primarily engaged in these lewd acts: "Any establishment that provides Internet services for the public must devise a way to prevent any person [from having] access [to] pornographic sites, and to prevent minors from engaging in any interactive sexual online affairs and conversation," the bill said.

It is also prohibits such establishments from having a private room for sexual predators to freely commit these acts, it added.

A fine of up to one million pesos and up to 10 years imprisonment await those who would violate the proposed measure.

Aquino said that he was prompted to file the bill because of the alarmingly rapid expansion and proliferation of Internet pornography despite enactment of the Anti-Trafficking Law. He said the existing law does not have enough teeth to combat the problem.

"Curbing the growth or even attempting to eradicate the pornographic images available on the Internet, which has no national borders, is a difficult task that will require international comity. Thus, there is a need to make this act an extraterritorial crime," he said in his explanatory note.

The representative’s staff admitted though that enforcing the bill’s provisions outside the country would be problematic.

Anatomy of eavesdropping on mobile phone calls

By Erwin Lemuel Oliva INQ7.net

THERE IS now a lot of speculation on how the alleged wiretapping of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took place.
Was a person or a group with sophisticated equipment able to listen and record the President’s conversations on her mobile phone?

One simple explanation offered by mobile communications firm Smart Communications is that one of the parties taped the conversation with the President. This would require a data cable connected to recording equipment.

“If you look at your phones, many can record conversations. Some have external ports; some have software that can record conversations internally,” Ramon Isberto, public affairs head of Smart Communications, told INQ7.net.

But there are also more sophisticated ways to “wiretap” a mobile phone call.

Lauri Pesonen, a Finnish PhD student (not a professor, as reported earlier) at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering in Helsinki University of Technology, told INQ7.net in an e-mail interview that one way of doing it involves eavesdropping on the radio traffic between a mobile phone and the base station, where calls are transmitted.

Reiterating a paper he wrote in 1999, Pesonen said that intercepting voice calls is tricky because one has to decipher the encrypted radio communication signal between the mobile phone and the base station.

“As my paper explained, this could be done by cloning the SIM [subscriber identification module] card in the manner explained in the paper. At the time of writing there were no academic experiments in cloning a SIM card over-the-air; the attack that had been experimented [on] in a lab required physical access to the SIM card, that is, the attacker had to plug the SIM card in a computer for a few hours,” he said.

“While I was writing the paper, I recall I read about SIMs being cloned in Italy by the Mafia. The Mafia supposedly cloned the SIMs of some judges that were presiding over a Mafia-related court case in order to eavesdrop on the judges,” he added.

Mobile phone operators have argued however that voice traffic from a mobile phone to a base station is encrypted using a special algorithm designed by the GSM consortium. Philippine mobile phone networks are currently using a technology called GSM, short for global system for mobile communications. It is a digital mobile telephone system now widely used in Europe and other parts of the world.

A mobile phone is essentially a radio. Whenever a phone call takes place, an audio signal is encrypted into a digital signal and transmitted over the air using a specific frequency. This encrypted digital signal is transmitted by so-called base stations to the intended receiver. The digital signal is then decrypted and assembled back into an audio signal that you can decipher. It works like a walkie-talkie, albeit a more sophisticated one.

Pesonen pointed out that after his paper was published, “a lot of attacks have been developed against the A5 cipher,” the encryption algorithm used in a GSM system.

“These days an attacker should be able to cryptoanalyze A5-encrypted traffic in real time. This means that an attacker should be able to eavesdrop on the radio communication between the MS and the BS, recover the used encryption key based on the traffic, and decrypt the traffic. As far as I know, the A5 has been completely broken,” he said.

Pesonen wrote in his paper that the "GSM security model is broken on many levels and is thus vulnerable to numerous attacks targeted at different parts of an operator's network. If somebody wants to intercept a GSM call, he can do so. It cannot be assumed that the GSM security model provides any kind of security against a dedicated attacker."

Isberto however insisted that if eavesdroppers are able to record encrypted voice calls over the air, they could not make it out. “With the fact it is a digital signal and is encrypted, we don’t know of any way that one can grab a encrypted signal from the air and tape it. If you're able to tape it, you'll hear is gibberish.”

Isberto however admitted that if eavesdroppers can tap into a mobile phone network using a highly sophisticated device, they would then be able to unscramble encrypted digital calls.

“But such equipment is very sophisticated and having one is not a question of money. You cannot just go out the market and buy it. These are restricted devices. Normally, only law enforcement can buy this,” he said.

In his paper, Pesonen also wrote that the security algorithms incorporated into the GSM system have been proven faulty.

“All this means that if somebody wants to intercept a GSM call, he can do so. It cannot be assumed that the GSM security model provides any kind of security against a dedicated attacker. The required resources depend on the attack chosen. Thus, one should not rely solely on the GSM security model when transferring confidential data over the GSM network,” he said.

“However, the reality is that although the GSM standard was supposed to correct the problems of phone fraud and call interception found in the analog mobile phone systems by using strong crypto for MS authentication and over-the-air traffic encryption, these promises were not kept.

“The current GSM standard and implementation enables both subscriber identity cloning and call interception. Although the implementation of cloning or call interception is a little bit more difficult, due to the digital technology that is used, compared to the analog counterparts, the threat is still very real, especially in cases where the transmitted data is valuable. Basically, we are where we used to be with the analog cell phones when it comes to security although the GSM Consortium tries to deny it,” Pesonen concluded.

Solon proposes Internet cryptography body

By Alexander F. Villafania INQ7.net

PAMPANGA Representative Jesus Reynaldo Aquino has proposed the creation of a new regulatory group to monitor the use of encryption technology in the country for security purposes.
The proposal, which comes amidst a recent wiretapping scandal is intended to ensure that terrorists cannot use computer encryption technology to scramble their messages.

Aquino called for the establishment of a Encryption Regulatory Board, as he stressed that doing so protect the integrity of the Web.

Under his proposal, the Department of National Defense and the National Bureau of Investigation will form the Encryption Regulatory Board and define its powers.

Aquino's proposal would require all business entities using any kind of encryption technology to register their encryption key with the board.

"While computers are the icon of an industrialized country, computer technology is also a double-edged sword as that it can also serve as a gateway for criminals and terrorists to transact with their counterparts and even conceptualize their plot," Aquino said.

Cryptography is the science involving methods of turning ordinary messages into unintelligible texts and reconverting these encrypted messages back to their original form.

Its most widely used application is in the military though it also widely used in the telecommunications industry and the Internet.

Aquino warned that cryptography is already being used by criminals for terrorism, as well as for legitimate Internet and business transactions.

"The threat to our national security by these cyber terrorists and criminals should not be taken lightly and the creation of the Encryption Regulatory Board is a step in the right direction," Aquino said.