Why Cisco Is The FBI's Best Friend

The FBI is apparently drafting a law that would require makers of network hardware to sneak backdoor wiretapping capabilities into their gear --- and Cisco couldn't be any happier....

July 13, 2006

2 Min Read
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The FBI is apparently drafting a law that would require makers of network hardware to sneak backdoor wiretapping capabilities into their gear --- and Cisco couldn't be any happier. As my Networking Pipeline compadre David Greenfield notes in his blog, CNet reports that "router and switch manufacturers will need to upgrade their equipment to support Internet wiretapping."

In addition, ISPs will have to agree to wiretap a wide range of applications for the FBI, ranging from VoIP to instant messaging, to pretty much any Internet service.

So why is Cisco licking its chops over this?

Because Cisco already has a headstart on a lot of networking gear makers -- it's already building in those backdoors. That's according to Brad Templeton, chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). As I wrote in a previous blog, Cisco has been building in these backdoors since at least January of this year, and most likely much earlier. In fact, Cisco has built in the backdoors even before the specifications were finalized.

By building in the backdoors early, Cisco gets to be best friends with the federal government, and the government buys a whole lot of networking gear.Cisco isn't alone in this. Templeton says that Juniper, Acme Packet and others are doing it as well.

Cisco and the others couldn't be happier about the new regulations. It means that ISPs and telecom providers will all have to upgrade their routers and switches, and that means a big bonanza for hardware makers.

But the companies may find that this will hurt them overseas. Imagine that you're a non-U.S. company. Are you really going to want to buy network gear that you know includes a back door that the U.S. government can tap into? I think not.

A lot still need to be worked out about the FBI proposal, particularly how to make sure that hackers can't take advantage of the backdoor. But no matter what, Cisco will be smiling all the way to the bank.

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