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Network security primer

Members who design telecom systems need to extend their knowledge beyond telephony and data.


January 1, 2004  


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Security has a broad meaning when it is looked at from a telecommunications point of view.

Overall, it suggests the need for some kind of protection on a system to secure it from threats, either intentional or accidental.

This protection falls into two categories — physical and software-based.

There are numerous ways to secure telecom equipment from theft or damage ranging from simple steps such as locking a door or padlocking a cabinet to sophisticated methods of key tracking, camera monitoring, and even security escorts.

A diverse puzzle

Fire, flood, and earthquake protection, as well as safeguards against other environmental concerns are also part of physical protection.

Once the type of protection has been established, the telecom designer has to consider networking and connecting together these diverse pieces of the puzzle.

At this point, the application of the devices is layered onto the infrastructure design, taking into consideration end device power requirements, jack and plug interface requirements, physical location, pathways, and conduits, etc.

For example, how do you plug a door strike into an 8-pin jack? Of course, the local codes requirements for fire safety, HVAC, and electrical issues must also be considered.

Many items fall into this category including actual devices that use the network as part of their function. Examples of that are camera surveillance, environmental monitors, equipment to control or protect premises, and access control devices.

Two of BICSI’s manuals, the Telecommunications Distribution Design Methods Manual and the Network Design Reference Manual (NDRM) provide excellent background and design material in supporting physical security requirements.

Two basic threats

Software-based protection is more accurately referred to as network security, which is vulnerable to two basic threats — from outside the corporation via the Internet in the form of hackers, spammers, denial of service attacks, and other threats, and from the inside through an intranet.

This usually takes the form of employee sabotage, unintentional employee error, or industrial espionage.

In both cases, software such as firewalls, honey pots, certifications, DMZs, and IP VPNs help prevent these problems. The software can reside on dedicated firewall appliances, routers, PCs and servers.

BICSI members who design telecom systems need to extend their knowledge beyond telephony and data into understanding network and physical security applications to ensure that such applications are supported with appropriate standards-based design practices.

The industry is no longer just voice and data, now it’s cameras, monitors, door controls, HVAC, card readers, scanners, and other devices that were not previously part of the network.

To meet the challenges of providing network security, BICSI offers a number of instructor-led courses. Call 800-242-7405 and ask for BICSI’s 2004 Educational Resource Catalog, which has complete course descriptions and schedules. You can also view the catalog online by visiting www.bicsi.org.

Of course, for the ultimate resource in organizational networks, you don’t have to look any further than BICSI’s recently released Network Design Reference Manual (NDRM), 5th edition.

It has 700 pages, two volumes, 13 chapters, three appendices, 400 figures, tables, and examples.

The NDRM is a single point of reference for all the major topics in networking today. The material is also vendor-neutral and standards-based, which is important when dealing with a myriad of new and varied devices that are being IP enabled and require connectivity in today’s network centric world.

The NDRM writers are BICSI Canadian region members Cory Boon and Steve Kepekci, both RCDD/LAN Specialists, who have this comment about the chapter on Network Security: “Our intent was to make it easier for the reader to review and organize the vast amount of vendor-specific literature available on security hardware and software.”

We can tell you that they have succeeded. You can find out more at www.bicsi.org.

Roman Dabrowski, RCDD, is the Canadian Director of BICSI and a sales consultant with Bell Nexxia. He can be reached via e-mail at rdabrowski@bicsi.org.


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