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Northern Illinois U Deploys Sipera Unified Communications Security Appliance

Northern Illinois University is deploying a unified communications security appliance from Sipera Systems. UC-Sec provides privacy and encryption, access control and authentication, threat mitigation, and security policy enforcement for real-time communications traffic, including voice over IP (VoIP), IP-based video, and instant messaging.

Although not much attention has been paid to security related to the use of VoIP, a group of universities and companies formed the VoIP Security Alliance in 2005 to address expected security threats. These include denial of service attacks, spam over Internet telephony (spit), and premium-rate phone fraud, where hackers break into the VoIP system to make pay calls.

The challenge in securing IP-based communications channels is in supporting an open environment that allows users to connect to the infrastructure with almost any device without requiring IT's direct control over each device. This often means that key communications systems must be exposed to the Internet or other publicly accessible networks without a formal subnetwork or DMZ being set up as an additional layer of security. But at the same time, communication systems can carry highly sensitive data that must be protected, including student records, financial data, and patient-related data in the case of medical schools.

"When we set out to deploy VoIP as part of our communications transformation, we planned from the outset that we would never compromise the security and privacy of the many different types of data and communications traversing our network," said Cindy Phillips, director, NIUTEL and IT Customer Support Services. "We have selected Sipera's UC-Sec appliance so that we can deploy highly effective, targeted security that ensures confidentiality." NUITEL manages the university's telecommunications and networking communications systems for on- and off-campus facilities.

With the new appliance, the university's IT people expect to be able to target specific systems and applications, users and user groups, and resources and data and exercise security control over these elements, without reducing communications performance or undercutting the open, multi-device environment.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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