Introduction to lawful Interception
Lawful interception is the process of legal sanction official access to private communications between people. These communications can be through the means of telephone calls, instant messages, e-mail message or VOIP communications. Generally it is a security process in which the network operator gives law officials access to communications between private individuals and organizations.
Lawful Interception is as old as the telecomm industry. Since the advent of telecommunication in the late 1800s, law officials have tried to identify means to tap phones. However, during the period of 1900-1970, communication interception grew due to increased demand by law officials.
Lawful interception needs to be supported by technology and most of the current systems work in accordance to this. It works efficiently across all the various systems like Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), cable television connections, wide area wireless networks and the Internet.
Architecture and for lawful interception
The architecture of lawful interception is dependent on the type of country and vendor. Generally there is a set of logical and physical requirement that helps in understanding the common terms being used. There is a distinct separation in the architecture between the IP networks and the network used for the distribution process of the information. There is a need for protecting the interface between various production line and various law enforcement systems. Lawful interception should ideally consists of three basic components as mentioned below
Capture system: A high speed network device that is created to capture 100% of link traffic with the help of taps, analyze the content and then send the desired information to the next stage which is the mediation system.
Mediation System: the mediation system works as a standard input or output interface that converts the content in a standards format. This is important when several types of communication system are involved due to multiple vendors.
Data Retention system: Secured storage systems are used to capture data that allows law enforcement agencies (LEA) to access information anytime when required.
Administration System: The system ensures that only law officials are given access to the information after sharing relevant verification data with the system.
Types of data that are intercepted
Lawful interception is basically used as a tool for criminal investigations. Wiretapping and interception of emails is commonly used to investigate white collar crimes that might be solved by the help of communication trail. For example, drug trafficking, child trafficking, murder conspiracy, child phonography, and drug manufacturing. The intelligence agencies use these techniques to keep a track of terrorist activities.
Who is Subject to Lawful Interception Regulations?
Generally lawful interception in any form, be it data or voice has to be shared when asked for. However the authorities that can ask for these permission vary from country to country. For example, in Australia Law enforcement and security agencies can opt for this service. Whereas, in the United States three federal authorities can ask for this information.
Lawful interception and security
Fundamentally, the concept of someone being able to hear your conversation or read your private communication is a troublesome thought. This is the reason why lawful interception came into picture. Citizens are wary towards government authorities intercepting their communication in any form. This is rightly so, as intrusion an ethical concern.
Recently, lawful interception has grown from an undefined and not understood concept to a clearly defined set of laws and regulations that have worked towards creating a framework under which LEAs and various intelligence agencies operate. The legal framework of LI is considered as an integral part for solving crimes and identifying terrorist activates before they occur.
Government agencies are taking efforts to ensure that there is a balance between the government requirement and trust of the citizens. An accountable, ethically equipped lawful interception solution understands that balance is possible by giving equal importance to the legalities of the law enforcement tasks at hand and the distinct rights of the citizens. To achieve this balance and maintain it constantly, government agencies need to consider technical aspects along with legal and ethical issues that are associated with monitoring of any communication form.
The case of Lavabit
Lavabit, a webmail service company had gained notoriety, due to evidences found during the spying of emails of Edward Snowden. The encryption of customer emails indicated that federal government was not able encrypt the emails. This led to the suspension of the company in August 2013 and was suspended till January 2017.
Lawful interception is a concept that should be handled and used with care. It is an effective means to get information that work against development of people and nation. However, with great features comes great responsibilities and it is imperative to maintain the trust. With latest technologies and increased positive effects of these innovations have helped the government setups be in the game.