Nortel chief executive Bill Owens has warned that the widespread move to digital networks could lead to severe economic disruption due to hacking attacks.
New digital networks based on IP technology are more vulnerable to viruses, worms and denial of service attacks than had been expected, according to Owens, who suggested that the problem is made worse by carrying voice and data traffic on a single network.
However, Terry Hughes, product marketing manager at Mitel, maintained that it is often the human factor that makes a network unsafe, and that firms need to control access more rigorously.
"There is a lot that vendors are doing to secure the IP network so that they will work independently even if a virus or worm hits," he said. "This is as safe as a traditional PABX telephony switch."
Nortel believes that denial of service attacks on a next-generation network
may be relatively simple to orchestrate and could spread rapidly to
Owens called for greater security at the core of the network to scan every packet of data for potential threats.
David Roberts, chief executive at user group the Corporate IT Forum, explained that there is already user awareness of the issue.
"User concerns stem from IP being a relatively new technology which may prove to have unseen vulnerabilities," he said. "But we are confident that, as the market matures, there will be increasingly sophisticated security."
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