Fortunately, there are solutions. Steven Johnson, president of Ingate Systems Inc., a company that makes a VOIP firewall, says that his companys products can already filter out VOIP spam, and should be able to handle much of the spam that the Burton Group is predicting. "We can manage whats allowed in," Johnson said, "We can filter on IP address, headers, etc. The organization can allow in what they want, and disallow what they dont want."However, Thomas Howe, CTO of Versatel Networks Inc., in Gatineau, Quebec, isnt so sure. While he says that some media gateways, including Versatels, can provide services such as call intercept (in which callers are asked to identify themselves before the call goes through), he doesnt think theres a lot that can be done to prevent spam over IP telephony. "Theres no real way for the people terminating the call to determine intent," Howe said. That means theres no good way to know whether a call is for telemarketing, extortion or just a friendly chat. Like the analysts in the Burton Group, Howe said he thinks theres great potential for fraud as VOIP becomes more popular. Howe said he also thinks that overseas call centers will be quickly supplanted by criminal activities, with fraud and extortion being the primary activities. He said that current "bot" nets used for spam can easily be used to attack carriers of VOIP traffic, with big cash payments being the price for stopping. "They will use spamming techniques to overcome rules against such calls," Howe predicted. "Welcome to the Internet," he said. But at least its not all negative. "I think its a good example of how security will become the big thing in voice over IP in the next three to five years," Howe said, adding that it will become critical because of fraud and extortion. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on voice over IP and telephony.
Unfortunately, even the best firewalls cant keep out everything, so Johnson suggested that companies that make media gateways will also have to play an important role.