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ITU-T e-FLASH - Issue No. 3


Telecommunication Standardization Sector

Issue No. 3 April 2004

Security Taken up a Notch
ITU-T has again signalled its commitment to the topic of security in information and communication technologies with consent on a set of new standards (ITU-T Recommendations) and an agreement on a new way of tackling this important subject.

Study Group 17 - ITU-T's focal point for security work - met recently and agreed to a re-organization of the way that it handles its work in the area. According to co-chairman Herb Bertine the splitting of one Question (study area) into six was undertaken to deal with the increased workload and meeting participation that security now attracts. Bertine said: “This re-structuring of the security work in ITU-T underlines the importance we attach to the subject. ITU-T is in a unique position given its international scope and the fact that it brings together manufacturers, network operators and governments to coordinate work on standards and influence the harmonization of security practice worldwide.”

The productive meeting also saw consent on four new Recommendations on security. X.1081 - on tele-biometrics will help towards the development of authentication mechanisms based on both static (for example finger-prints) and dynamic (for example gait, or signature pressure variation) attributes of a human being. Two other Recommendations focus on the mobile telecoms arena. X.1121 describes a framework for the specification of security technologies in mobile systems. And X.1122 provides guidelines for implementing secure mobile systems based on public key infrastructure (PKI). Providing mobile systems with PKI will create a safer environment for mobile commerce (m-commerce) and will give users more security when accessing a corporate mail server - for instance. Lastly X.1051 outlines the telecommunication requirements for information security management systems.

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Network Operators Get a Better View on Security
These new announcements (Security Taken up a Notch) come hot on the heels of other important security related news from ITU. ITU-T Recommendation X.805 is now available for download. X.805 will give telecom network operators and enterprises the ability to provide an end-to-end architecture description from a security perspective. Key players from telecom network operators, manufacturers and governments have defined the specifications that will alter the way that companies look at their networks. The Recommendation will allow operators to pinpoint all vulnerable points in a network and mitigate them. Its incorporation in a risk management policy will give network operators the confidence to be able to say that they have addressed security issues to the best of their abilities.

This new global standard will enable businesses, government agencies and network operators to better implement governance programs that improve network security and eliminate potential threats. The standard provides a technology independent and comprehensive security management framework under which existing security standards such as X.509 for public key and attribute certificates can be mapped.

“It is paramount that security be a well-thought process that goes from system inception and design to system implementation to policies and practices for system deployment,” said Houlin Zhao, director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau.

Network operators and individuals can use the holistic security architecture framework within X.805 to set security policies, detect, predict and correct security vulnerabilities across wireless, optical, and wire-line voice, data and converged networks. It can also be used to assess the security of existing networks, and help ensure end-to-end security of distributed applications.

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New Standard Gives Operators IP Confidence
ITU-T has announced that it now has standards in place that allow operators using H.323 or SIP as their switching protocol to interwork between IP and legacy environments. The news follows completion of work on a new Recommendation - Q.1912.5 - that defines the methodology for interworking between legacy circuit switched networks and IP based networks that use SIP. Standards giving comparable interworking for H.323 are already in place and defined in ITU-T Recommendations Q.1912.3 and H.246.

As operators migrate to a packet-switched architecture they will have to move to an IP specific signalling protocol, as SS7 - the current de-facto method of signalling - is designed only for circuit switched networks. It is however important that new gateways and other network elements provide continued support for this circuit switched technology, as the majority of traffic will still use it.

According to experts work on the standard has been led by carriers, many of whom are looking to move to a 'pure IP' infrastructure - in time. The standard - ITU-T Recommendation Q.1912.5 - will give operators the ability to deploy - with confidence - IP access gateways that will provide full coverage for all types of traffic. Q.1912.5 defines the signalling interworking between the Bearer Independent Call Control (BICC) or ISDN User Part (ISUP) protocols and SIP in order to support services that can be commonly supported by BICC or ISUP and SIP based network domains. Q.1912.3 defines the signalling interworking between the BICC and H.323. H.246 Annex C specifies the signalling interworking between ISUP and H.323.

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NGN Signalling Work gets Underway
The ITU-T Study Group responsible for signalling standards including the ubiquitous Signalling System 7 (SS7) met recently and kick-started new work in the NGN space.

The Study Group agreed to examine network signalling and control functional architectures in emerging NGN environments and signalling and control requirements and protocols to support attachment in NGN environments.

All phone systems need signalling. Without SS7 telecom systems worldwide would not interoperate. It provides the means for monitoring the status of a line to see if it is busy or idle, alerts that indicate the arrival of a call, and the addressing system that routes calls. Before SS7’s implementation, not all nations were party to the standards agreements that facilitate the handling of international telephone calls. SS7’s implementation paved the way for an efficiently operating international telecommunication network.

The new work seeks to update signalling mechanisms already in place to meet the demands of NGN.

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ITU-T to Support ETSI Workshop
ITU-T will lend its support to an event held by ETSI - Workshop on Wideband Speech Quality in Terminals and Networks, to be held 8 and 9 June, Mainz, Germany. The workshop is also supported by the French and German acoustical societies (SFA and DEGA). Work in the area has become important as more technologies emerge that use wideband communications. VoIP and UMTS are two obvious examples.

The workshop will examine ways of updating current standards that relate to narrow-band communications in particular for quality prediction and assessment. Chairman of the ITU-T Study Group responsible for Quality of Service, and contributor to the event, Jean-Yves Monfort says that he believes that pushing standards work forward is an essential part of the development of new applications and services, and the workshop an excellent way to engage academia and others in the topic.

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To be or not to be...
"The latest work to be completed - Recommendation G.984.3 - deals with specifications for frame, message, ranging, operation, administration and maintenance (OAM) and security."

The above appeared in the last e-Flash and caused much debate. Why?

It seems that all depends on whether you are native english speaking or english speaking francophone.

A rough translation of the first few words provides the explanation. "Le dernier travail à effectuer", or indeed "le dernier travail qui doit être effectué" would leave the french speaker with the impression that the Recommendation is work that is yet - to be - completed. The work is complete, but the use of the phrase 'to be' is evidently the source of the ambiguity.

The debate rolled on, with a clear division between the native english speaking and the english speaking francophone.

But many asked, wouldn't the sentence have been clearer without 'to be'. And, that - indeed - is the question...

(The editor concedes that the answer is a resounding YES.)

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Products and Services
A new feature that will give information on one ITU-T product or service each month. This month a short introduction to the ITU Operational Bulletin.

ITU-T Operational Bulletin is a fortnightly detailed update containing information that is required to maintain the global interconnection of the world's telecommunications networks. In particular, it contains information on changes to numbering and routing plans, whether at the national or international level.

ITU-T's numbering and addressing systems underpin international telecommunication, without them it would be impossible to make a call from your home country to another with the simplicity that we enjoy today. From the international country codes detailed in ITU-T Recommendation E.164, to today's universal numbers that enable companies to trade internationally with little capital outlay, through identification codes for mobile phones and electronic numbering (ENUM), ITU-T develops telecommunications numbering and addressing standards to ensure that we can stay in touch on any device, anywhere.

Changes in this numbering information is essential information for operators who will use it to ensure that switching mechanisms are always up to date. So for example if one country splits into two it will need two country codes, and operators worldwide need to know this in order that calls continue to be routed correctly.

ITU Operational Bulletin also includes details on changes in regulatory authorities and the assignment of the signalling area/network codes detailed in ITU-T Recommendation Q.708, data network identification codes detailed in ITU-T Recommendation X.121, carrier codes detailed in ITU-T Recommendation M.1400, as well as the mobile country codes detailed in Recommendation E.212, which are used to implement roaming for mobile handsets.

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Updated : 2004-09-22