The FCC’s Brutal Regulation to Enterprise

Should the Internet, regulating Facebook (Messenger) be next?

If I am in a desperate situation, I should be able to type “911” on my Messenger screen and connect to my local Public Safety Answering Point because Facebook knows exactly where I live right?

At this point your desk phone will most likely get more punishment than say WMUR-TV Manchester getting their license nixed in the coming year.

The Federal Communications Commission is pushing another mandatory obedience to 9-1-1 call tracing, and if you thought Kari’s Law was bad, wait till you hear Ray Baum’s Act. This forces anyone with a phone system (like a PBX or a Key system) to provide detailed information. If you are a small creative office with no weird cubicle numbers, you may need to add C1021524BC-AD at the way I’ve read the law. Some enterprises are on the 3rd floor in a different suite, the reason why the telco carriers do not have this in their 9-1-1 database that is only activated when a 9-1-1 call is placed and forwarded to the PSAP is amusing.

Hell if I don’t give PayPal my specific location for a package, may not get the Buyers Victimization Program Protection! (Oh sorry “Buyer Protection Program”.)

In the days where little Gen. Colon Powell’s little kid, Michael ran the FCC, the spirit of Voice over IP and 9-1-1 routing was a hands off approach. In reality, prior to the Kari Hunt incident of 2013, they were even more closer to having general consensus on how 91-1-1 calls on private property would work.

(And when you prefer the boys club like him today… that shows you how extreme the FCC has lost it, refusing in the spirit of protecting America’s radiowaves.) The problem is that the younger Powell running the FCC under a Republican admin, like the GOP in general, was the party of yesteryear. When Kari’s Law and Ray Baum’s Act had been developed, a political style was developing: White Grievance. Another obs was narcissism (not taking personal responsibility of situational awareness), entitlement (the expectation “9-1-1” should be the only number even in a private property), and scapegoating (the PBX/MLTS was the one that really killed Kari) not a man of which previous accounts described their relationship as “estranged” and the motel meetup was “arraigned” and the brutal murder of “Hunt-Dunn” (Cisco refers her as hyphenated surname) was never the fault of the killer, of which local media reported he got 99 years in prison and despite The Spirit of Texas’ strong views on capital punishment, he’ll be locked up instead.

But… Multi Line Telephone Systems, Key Telephone Systems, whether they are digital or TDM or VOIP based, were the ones that killed Kari and delayed in saving the live of Ray Baum.

The parent company of Kensington should make millions and billions to put their signature “locks” on many of the VOIP phones not to be snatched, but ensure that 9-1-1 will get the right room, cube or desk space because not all phone systems have the ability to be user based not extension based. For instance Avaya treats extensions numbers as users, so if a person “hot desks” they don’t have to literally move their phone, whereas Cisco, Polycom and other hard phones have the extension number hardened to the phone device itself which makes moving cubes easier, but the information that may identify them in a time of crisis harder. But Avaya was the Official Sponsor of Kari’s Law and they declared bankruptcy a year before it got signed into law by POTUS Trump and company has never been the same since.

It’s sad to see chauvinism in technology worsen over time like how a narcissistic creep that don’t age really well. This is the FCC. And I am not holding my breath for the FCC to go back in their lane and rip WMUR-TV’s license once and for all with their alleged news product Newsnine of which they spend more time acting like a fascist media outlet and never covering the stories in their City of License. Or hell WZID (FM) focusing on the 51% of the menopause to death female audience and indirectly boxing men in the 603. But talking about broadcast media, should be in it’s own post instead.

The issues between DevOps and General Enterprise Technology

In the Facebook outage, it reminded people that you can’t trust a company which thinks they have only a few million users, when they don’t accept they work for a trillion dollar enterprise. This meaning that Facebook’s servers and services are more consumer-class than enterprise class or worse the braintrust is very weak.

It’s important to note, that even though the Internet Protocol is in itself a software stack (think of this as an “extension” or “driver”), but software engineering, web apps, etc., is in itself a different skillset. People who have used Microsoft’s Windows Server solutions really do not know much about IP networking. For many years, the Server editions came with a DHCP server, how many of the Microsoft certified admins know more about DHCP other than it gives IP address at the local level to get out onto “the Internet? I have suspected about VOIP deployments in the past, where NT admins didn’t understand “DHCP options” and alike because you know it’s more important to manage an Active Directory.

Look at Microsoft’s own VOIP systems, it fell shorter beyond Cisco’s Unified Call Manager, and obviously the Avaya, Nortel, Mitel or Shortels of the world. It’s sad when a Cisco can do better. This has a lot to do with Microsoft’s DNA of everything being software and talking to Microsoft’s own blueprint. Anything that routes outside a data center of an in house, on prem Microsoft solution is something Microsoft doesn’t get, and their software shows it. If it has to hit a Cisco, or needs to interact with a Cisco IOS, well good luck to that.

The Session Initiation Protocol part of Voice over IP was yet another rip-off from the traditional telephony, and was created by application people, since SIP was based off the Web standards or HTTP technically speaking if it’s a device talking to another machine. In a lot of ways SIP was designed almost like cell phones because a telephone number is basically a URL, and when you hear the “dial tone” it’s a fake noise to assure the user to replicate it’s a phone. Because the people who developed SIP didn’t understand enterprise voice systems, its basically like a landline with all the 19 potential features you could add on to your home hardwired or broadband phone service, because the people who likely created it looked at their POTS phone and assumed the same.

What a bunch of assholes to make an ass out of themselves.

Understanding software and an imaginary world is the worst thing to have in DevOps, of which is the new IT department fusing move-fast-and-break things punky coders, and wife beating sysadmins who hate change, but preach it to their “end users” or “lusers”. It’s kinda ironic that either type of man typically lacks software of another sorts, people. Understanding people. The IT world needs to be reformed to really not be the evil world to their fellow employees, and they need to stop jacking off to the C-suite, to help them save money by cutting jobs to their own people. This kinda goes full circle of the way money and influence is killing society with Facebook and their technical approach. If you are building a social network, that isn’t based on empathy, you are certainly going to cause rift amongst the people who are using your service.

Techie No-Nos – On DNS…

For security purposes and ensuring you’re not clogging your own low voltage pipes, your “DNS address” should be local. If you use Google or your ISP’s DNS address any connection to your local devices can only be accessed by IP addresses because you have no way to have a DNS point to a name to a host with an numeric IP address.

Local IP addresses are kinda like the FRS radio bands, ones that ISPs are expected to not route for the purposes of having a local area networks routable.

Anything from:

  • 10.0.0.0 to 10.0.0.255
  • 172.16.0.0. 172.24.255.255
  • And 192.168.1.0 192.168.254.255

The local DNS address should point out to the firewall or wireless router. Many smaller end devices have the ability to basic DNS if you have a few devices where you want to connect them by domain-name.

With all these cyber attacks, it’s best to separate what’s exposed to the overall Internet, and what should be local. Computing devices should be connected with a local IP and DNS address and appliances that help route local devices to the overall Internet should be the ones with the most exposure like having the Google DNS address.

Just do the right thing, and keep your devices protected with a better structured local network

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How to Implement Cisco Call Manager Express at Home, part five

Session Initiation Protocol

In 2020, as previously mentioned SIP is replacing most of the desktop phones. SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol.  H323 or SIP is neither better or worse of standards, it only differs how the phones connect and disconnect calls. Cisco’s SCCP uses H323 standard, even though the protocol itself is proprietary. Your routers IP address handles the configuration (buttons and lines, sometimes for the user like backdrops and ring tones), the time clock (the time of day and day of the year), the signaling (the tones), and the transmission (the human conversation). SIP could do any of the four things and could be separate devices on separate networks.

The basis of the SIP “stack”/protocol/extension supports

  • Video chats
  • Audio calls (err the traditional telephony)
  • Instant Messaging (known as “texting”, “messaging” or “chat” if someone has been born after 1994
  • The basic SIP telephony stack supports essentially all standard 19 Custom Calling Features that the phone company used to provide separately, that many broadband phone companies provide for free or is included at a much lower price rate.
  • The protocol literally revolves around Caller ID. “Display Name” and “SIP Alias” is equivalent to the “station-id name” and “station-id number” in the FXO ports respectively  in the IOS configuration if you wanted to do ethical caller ID spoofing.)

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VOIP Security in 2020 – More Concerning Than Ever Before

I don’t intend to scare any potential readers with my written work, however it’s something people need to be on alert. Particularly on a specific technology, not the protocol/service itself.

Voice over IP or VOIP (sometimes spelled with the tacky “VoIP”, pronounced as Vo-eye-pee) is a technology that puts mostly telephony over the open Internet Protocol (hence the IP part of the acronym.)

IP dates back to the early 1980s and it’s offspring to the original DARPAnet that began as a Defense Department project in 1969 to have some form of a communications network in case the Soviets or some other rouge country had bad intentions against America.

Oh this phone is so sexy… and cheap! (And perhaps a bit insecure for our 300 lines we will be acquiring?)

IP then and now is a fragmented protocol, with billions of devices traditionally tied to firewall or Network Address Translation, that is better known as a “router”, so on the wild Net, what it sees is mostly machines and rarely users; except at the application level of the OSI Layer. In reality TCP/IP is your device’s driver to interconnect with other devices like the sound driver enables you to hear things on your machines. 

VOIP is mostly an application, and the IP Phones are really desktop sized streaming devices that replicate that ol telephone that was invented by either Alexander Graham Bell, or Elisha Grey or Thomas Edison.

When VOIP became popular in the enterprise in the early 2000s, the security and reliability had been a concern. “Pure IP” vendors like Cisco came from data point of view so  they felt routing telephony should be routing like accessing the Web. Early on some large-scale implementations had some major failures. Some were bone-headed from the phone guy’s point of view, and some were reliant on Microsoft Windows Server (other vendors probably laughed at Cisco.)

The issue then was a lack of encryption, lack of basic controls such as binding IP addresses for specific services, etc. Earlier versions of VOIP used proprietary protocols, and vendors like Avaya, Nortel and Mitel implemented their hard-wired telephony protocols on top of the “IP stack” (again like a plugin to that driver metaphor”.) VLANs along with firewall policies ensured that VOIP networks would be seen by the IT or phone guy and not a co-worker in accounting.

If a bad guy wanted to get into the phone system, s/he would needed to know the IP address of the server, or gateways, and manipulate the system at that point.

Problem Met Another Problem Without a Simpler Solution

Within the VOIP ecosystem, there was that proprietary way known as H323 (this is a signaling protocol of how the VOIP sets talked to the routers and servers) and then there was Session Initiation Protocol or SIP.

SIP decentralized the telephony networks by putting a switching like system on every device; and took the Web playbook for signaling the servers and gateways, and streaming audio and even video through the hand or headsets. Even that, it could support instant messaging or chat services, since the devices were chatting to each other via text, why can users?

The one thing I left out with H323 vs SIP, was, either a hostname or an IP address with H323, and with SIP it requires a server for authentication, another server for “proxy” another one for an emergency (ala 9-1-1), and another for time of day, and another set of IP addresses or Domain Names for “provisioning” to send all those stuff to the sets.

It also enabled the customer to the standard 19 Custom Calling Services features that in the old consumer landline world would cost a fortune. Any “PBX” type of features has to be “extended” from the vendor, say a Cisco, or Avaya.

SIP was great for long haul trunking between the phone company and the customer, or even inter site linking, since SIP did Caller ID well, if you had played around the graphically enhanced distro of Asterisk, Free PBX, the phrase is used very liberally.

As with any technology or service, without any baseline of historical context, the only thing SIP could relate was the unrelated H323 standard. SIP is open, meaning any vendor that adheres to the Request for Comment/RFC for SIP could theoretically work. Early on in the development of the endpoints (the “phones”) the prediction was you could go to BestBuy or RadioShack and buy a phone off the shelf and bring into the office. While those places did (or does not) carry them per se, but any eBay or Amazon store you could buy a $59 single line set and plug it into a SIP controller in the office and hello to BYOD.

Improper SIP Deployments can be a Threat to Small Businesses 

The issues in the early 2000s involved H323 and proprietary software and servers. A lot of what caused H323 issues then were taught later (such as admin web pages to stay local and not be exposed to the open Internet, or remote users requiring log in through VPN compared SIP could be logged in from anywhere; which is why it’s successful)

Many traditional Nortel, Avaya small end systems that serviced customers less than 30 stations have been replaced Key Phone Systems  “for a little more” or “better off” going a cheaper path to “Cloud PBX” systems. Most small businesses are using store bought technology (which is a whole other issue that would be beating a dead horse); worse is that these devices, Polycoms, Grandstreams, alike are likely directly connected to the Open and Wild Interwebz. If you work in an office with over 255 PCs, typically the DNS address is going to be something like a 172.16.1.x or 10.0.x.x) and not an 8.8.8.8 because if every PC and every device had that; it would stress out the network with every device pinging Google to get onto Facebook.com that then turns into Facebook’s public IP address when using browsers or apps.

For SIP deployments, these devices are going directly on the Internet and not some middleman in the datacenter or server closet. This is how many of the VOIP Phone Spam or Prank calls on steroids occur. There needs to be some device at where the Wide Area Network, WAN or “the Internet comes in” such a enterprise class firewall or a proxy server. All SIP calls would “originate” from this box. Unlike H323 or the traditional phone system, it’s not “the brain” per se, but it controls the quality, security and the “noise” that SIP devices would talk to each other if it’s going to Comcast Business or RingCentral. These things are called SIP Proxy Servers or firewalls, they aren’t “private” per se, it’s a hybrid of a multi line phone system meets the customer premise equipment like those T1-landline adaptors, or straight up modems. They can come in various shapes and sizes. You may need more servers/devices for redundancy. Cisco’s IOS routers have some level of support. If you have virtualization like VMware, you could run this as an instance, or if you have PFsense firewall, there is built in packages to do that.

In 2020, you wouldn’t plug your computer into a modem like you used to in 2002, so why would you do this to an IP enabled phone?

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