Botnets and SIP Phones

I came across this article the other day thanks to my friend Olle, who’s blog “VoIP Forum – Open Source and Open Standards in IP Communications” is often filled with interesting information about my industry.

Avaya SIP Phone

It is entitled “A Distributed Cracker for VoIP” and it is a real life example of how some of my interests are coming together.  The article mentions a botnet (short for a robot network – a collection of ‘zombie’ computers that have been taken over by someone), P2P (peer-to-peer) message routing, and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol – putting voice and phone calls over the Internet).  And BTW, “cracker” doesn’t refer to the food, it means a password cracker or breaker.

If you have read or heard about my new techno thriller Counting from Zero, all these topics will be familiar, as they all form part of the plot in the book!  The additional thing this article adds is a mention of SIP or Session Initiation Protocol, which really brings it all together for me!  For a hint why, check out my Author Page at Amazon…

My professional life over the past 13 years or so has revolved around SIP.  SIP is an Internet protocol – a way that computers establish voice, video, or other sessions over the Internet for communication.  It has been widely adopted in Voice over IP (VoIP) and also in video conferencing services.  Most telephone companies today are deploying Internet Protocol (IP) networks and running SIP over it to carry phone calls.  For the past 10 years or so, my home has never been without a “SIP Phone” on my desk.  A SIP Phone looks like a normal telephone, with a handset, a keypad, and a ringer, but instead of plugging into a telephone jack, it has an Ethernet jack and plugs into the Internet!  Wherever on the Internet I plug in the phone, it has my identity and I can place and receive phone calls.

Above is a picture of a SIP phone made by my employer, Avaya, which is used in corporate offices.  Many of you will recognize the Cisco phones that have become the staple telephone prop in television and movies – these phones are all VoIP phones, and many are also SIP phones.

The blog post “A Distributed Cracker for VoIP” is about a botnet with P2P routing that uses zombie computers to discover and attack SIP VoIP phones and systems (known as a PBX or Private Branch Exchange) by trying to guess the passwords.  And the results are sent back to a shadowy command and control center for the botnet.  I’m sure there will be more and more of this in the future.

Interesting how various interests can come together like this – something that happens a lot with the Internet.

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