Nothing certain

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2005-03-16 Print this article Print

In fact, the one thing thats certain is that no one is certain. But the horror stories will still get your attention. Will U.S. households get hundreds of calls every day from VOIP-equipped call centers safely outside the reach of U.S. laws?
Will legions of hijacked computers flood the E911 system, compromising emergency services in the United States?
There are suggestions that gangs of mobsters might attempt to launch VOIP denial of service attacks against major providers as a way to get ransom money. So what could happen? First, the really worrisome prediction is that E911 would be put out of service. Not true, according to Drew Morin, CTO of TeleCommunication Systems of Annapolis, Md. TCS provides the majority of E911 service in the United States. Morin said that in general, spam from overseas will be hard to control, but that emergency calls arent likely to be affected. "There are some capabilities within the IP network to determine where the network address and source data are coming from," Morin said. He said that its not difficult to simply refuse any connection attempts coming from outside the United States. In fact, its possible to determine approximately where a caller is, using a variety of technologies. While this wont eliminate the threat to the 911 system, it will keep it to a manageable level. But thats only part of the problem. What about hundreds of calls per day? Anybody who knows about outsourcing knows about the idea that there are millions of educated workers in places like India, China and Russia who are available to work in call centers at salaries much lower than what similar workers would make in the United States. "The salaries are much lower, but theres only 20 percent differential when you count all the costs," said Elizabeth Herrell, an analyst for Forrester Research. "There are savings, for sure, but its not so significant that its driving everyone offshore," she said. Herrell also pointed out that just because a call center might be outside the United States, the company sponsoring them can still be charged with federal crimes by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). In fact, one government spokesperson told that the FTC had every intention of enforcing the Do Not Call laws wherever the violators are, including in foreign countries. But such laws dont prevent VOIP spam created by people who are already criminals. And if the situation gets even half as bad as the Burton Group suggests, users are going to demand changes. Next Page: Possible solutions.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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