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It’s Not Wiretapping—It’s Network Tapping
We all know those old mobster movies, right? Where the cops are tapping phone lines to take down America’s most wanted criminals.
Or if you need a more recent example, you can think of all of the surveillance involved in HBO’s The Wire. And then there’s the current social chatter around surveillance that we don’t have to get into.
For 40 years, we’ve labeled all of these situations with the same word—wiretapping. But words matter and it’s time to get ourselves out of the 1970s.
Today, it’s not wiretapping—it’s network tapping.
How Technology Has Transformed Wiretapping
When you think about wiretapping for lawful intercept, Watergate is often the first thought. In the Watergate days, wiretapping required someone to climb a telephone pole and punch into some copper to intercept communications straight from the wire.
These plain old telephone service (POTS) lines still exist (in the banking industry and in large, legacy systems in older companies), but for the most part we’ve adopted IP-based networks and telephony—especially if you’re thinking about the infrastructure of a certain tower in today’s wiretapping news.
Working with the 1s and 0s of an IP network means we aren’t dealing with the electrical signals that made wiretapping possible years ago. Instead, we’re network tapping to ensure monitoring and security tools get 100% of data off the wire.
Now, the FBI and other agencies have to use network TAPs to execute lawful intercept—wiretapping just isn’t an option.
Network TAPs Are an Unwritten Rule in Lawful Intercept
Wiretapping directly on a copper POTS line was an all-or-nothing deal. You tapped into the wire and got all of the data necessary for court evidence. This is what happens when you get your information straight off the wire.
But everything changed when we started connecting firewalls through SPAN ports—our networking tools started to drift away from the wire. It wasn’t long before IT experts found they could derail entire court cases by proving that SPAN ports don’t guarantee 100% network visibility. If the data isn’t guaranteed 100% accurate/complete, federal judges can’t accept the evidence.
You might know someone is doing something illegal, but it’s meaningless if you can’t gather useful evidence for prosecution. Just look the mobsters who kept getting away on technicalities.
The only way to guarantee 100% network visibility—whether it’s for typical business processes or lawful intercept—is to use a network tap. We aren’t wiretapping anymore. We’re network tapping.
Business Lessons Learned from the Wiretapping Evolution
The next time you see a news article with the word “wiretapping” in the headline (which will probably be very soon), you can smile a little bit because you know that these lawful intercept discussions are really about network tapping.
Instead of getting all caught up in the political discussion, think about what all of this means for your own business and network. If federal prosecutors and judges can’t trust SPAN ports and other methods of packet capture to put criminals in jail, should you really bother trusting them in your own network?
When you use a network TAP, it’s like getting back to the simplicity of wiretapping—you plug your tools into the TAP and you get the benefits of a live wire connection. This is how you guarantee visibility of every bit, byte and packet®.
With your increasingly complex network and growing stacks of monitoring and security solutions, choosing how your tools get the data is equally (if not more) important as choosing the tools themselves.
If you want to learn more about the applications and appliances that fit into this network tapping (not wiretapping) picture, download our free white paper, 7 Tools to TAP.
Written by Chris Bihary
Chris Bihary, CEO and Co-founder of Garland Technology, has been in the network performance industry for over 20 years. Bihary has established collaborative partnerships with technology companies to complement product performance and security through the integration of network TAP visibility.
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