Data and securityCyber SecuritySecuring unified communications – securing countries and citizens

Securing unified communications – securing countries and citizens

Kevin Isacks, VP of SaaS Solutions Engineering at Ribbon Communications, discusses how public sector organisations can protect unified communications – and takes a look at the US Department of Defense example

Securing unified communications – securing countries and citizensGovernment IT leaders are under pressure to reduce complexity and costs and drive greater productivity, while also securing increasingly digital services – and communications.

As more government workers interact with each other, with partners, with citizens, and with systems, the importance of ensuring the integrity of data and securing information has taken on new meaning.

As awareness of the cost savings associated with virtualised and cloud communications grows, these IT leaders are also more deeply exploring the advantages of reducing their reliance on legacy systems, which have been premise-based and capital-intensive, and moving to the cloud, albeit carefully and over time.

How can government technologists deliver more convenient, mobile access and services, without compromising demands for better security and undisrupted continuity of operations?

Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) holds the answer, but not every UCaaS solution is equal.

UCaaS delivers managed Voice-over IP (VOIP) telephony, messaging, audio conferencing, video conferencing, web collaboration, presence and mobility management in its most complete form. What some UCaaS systems have failed to deliver on, however, is security.

Many factors have aligned to make this an ideal time to consider UC as a Service to meet agency demands for modern and manageable enterprise communications systems:

  • UCaaS implementation in a private cloud environment is, of course, the first step. This relieves IT of the burden of managing complex, dated hard-wired systems. With a service and subscription-based approach, end-users can be quickly added or deleted.
  • Software updates can be handled in the cloud and are available to all provisioned end users simultaneously and effortlessly.
  • Capex is eliminated and replaced by a predictable, per-user opex subscription model.
  • And Communications Service Providers (CSPs) can offer or enable government agencies 365/7/24 service monitoring with continuous oversight, scanning, incident monitoring, response activation and more.

Keeping systems safe

But with all this openness and ease – how can government agencies be sure their providers are delivering all the services required to keep systems safe from cybercriminals, data loss (internally and externally caused) and other mayhem?

Government agencies and other organisations are exploring everything from machine learning, network behavioural analytics, criminal activity and more related to their unified communications platforms. They must accurately block intruders as well as disseminate security policies across network “enforcers” such as SBCs and firewalls and they also require a single view for network operations of their end to end communications network, which is critical in stopping UC attacks and intelligently pinpointing network operational issues.

They need to:

  • Detect bad actors trying to infiltrate their UC network
  • Close the security aperture in their UC network
  • Leverage virtualized, micro-services architecture for rapid deployment of new communications features
  • Leverage existing UC Network Elements (with no hardware or software probes required)
  • Add-on applications for enhanced security for certain applications or users
  • Network performance intelligence to detect unusual behaviours and shut down destructive actions

They also need the assurances provided by working with proven CSPs, who understand the requirements and have the reach to be able to offer secure UC services over a uniform infrastructure, with uniform policies and certification of compliance and other regulatory requirements. Securing UC is not something government agencies can take on in a vacuum.

The U.S. Department of Defense example

One example of a successful deployment is the upgrade of two U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) legacy communications systems to UC, with the highest levels of security built in, led by Verizon Enterprise Solutions.

With the completion of the upgrade, the DoD can now seamlessly integrate voice, video, instant messaging, presence and conferencing into a single platform.

Using Ribbon Communication’s JITC-certified Application Server for the deployment, the department was able to replace the core of its communications infrastructure while leveraging its existing endpoints and using standards-based technology going forward. The cost and time required to integrate this option were significantly less than implementing an entirely new solution.

Because the modernisation solution was integrated using existing platforms, the agency is able to continue to use its more than 60,000 phones, according to Verizon, while still supporting mobility and other enhancements.

The integration and migration of the entire system was a huge task which took a tech village, with Verizon and Ribbon’s efforts coordinated by partners Black Box and Visioneering, working closely with the DOD’s leadership.

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