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IMTC INTEROP PROVES SECURE MULTIMEDIA COMMUNICATIONS OVER THE INTERNET

Rennes-meeting establishes privacy through standard based security methods -Major step forward for multimedia communications- H.323 certification expected during this year

Rennes, France, February 20, 2003 - An interoperability test event organized by the International Multimedia Telecommunications Consortium (IMTC) and co-hosted by France Telecom, Rennes Metropole, and Rennes Atlante at the end of January this year has shown that multimedia communications based on Internet Protocol (IP) media can be made secure, guaranteeing full privacy to all participants. The results of the four-day meeting have just been announced by IMTC. According to Steve Welch from Ridgeway Systems & Software, Chairman of the IMTC Security Activity Group, this represents a major step forward for the use of multimedia communications. "There are companies that often shy away from using IP multimedia communications in spite of its many advantages," he said. "Some companies are afraid that outsiders can take over, or intercept, their conversations. The level of interoperability among security implementations achieved at this IMTC event should assure both service providers and end users that IP multimedia products exist today, which work together to deliver connectivity without compromising security."

"Security techniques using the H.235 standard for IP multimedia based on the H.323 standard provide a new dimension of privacy to service providers and enterprises," added Martin Euchner from Siemens AG, who is leading the H.235 standardization work within the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). "Users communicating through IP media are correctly authenticated and authorized with the help of H.235, their signaling communications are protected against various crucial security threats. Real-time multimedia encryption adds a further layer of security, protecting against call interception", he describes.

The meeting in Rennes was the first Interoperability test event of this year organized by the IMTC H.323 and Security Activity Groups and attracted companies from Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. It was the first such event to explore the usage of test specifications developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) group on VoIP as part of H.323 Forum Certification Testing. It represented the kick-off of a series of four major IMTC test events to be held in 2003. "We expect to come up with a full H.323 certification program by the end of this year," explained Anatoli Levine of RADVISION, who chairs the H.323 Activity Group of IMTC. "The H.323 standard provides the basis for growth of ubiquitous multimedia communications and is leading the way to converged service networks. The H.323 Forum Certification Program will facilitate faster deployment of the interoperable systems by the Service Providers and will help vendors to reduce time-to-market for reliable and interoperable equipment."

During the interoperability event in Rennes vendors in the security field got together to provide the most secure multimedia communication seen to date. Siemens, RADVISION, Ridgeway and TANDBERG all provided H.323 equipment with software conforming to the latest H.323 and H.235 standards. A call was established using H.235 Annex D baseline security to mutually authenticate the endpoints and gatekeeper and to provide an integrity check on each of the call setup signaling messages. According to Martin Euchner, "These security countermeasures are to effectively thwart service fraud, avoid service misuse and detect malicious message tampering"

Encryption of the established media streams was achieved using the latest AES algorithm, providing full privacy for the established call. A further level of more scaleable and advanced security was demonstrated with an implementation of the draft H.235 Annex F standard, providing PKI certificates and public-key based digital signatures to authenticate endpoints and gatekeeper.

"This interop event was the first time that H.235 security implementations were successfully tested in practice. A few necessary corrections were fed directly back into the ITU-T standardization process, showing the effective liaison between IMTC and ITU-T", Martin Euchner said.

Interoperability test events are organized by IMTC to enable equipment manufacturers to ascertain that their standards-based systems are compatible with equipment developed by others before they put new products on the market. Many standards leave some margins to slightly different interpretations, which may lead to technical deviations and thus may hinder the compatibility among "standardized" products. The IMTC testing events provide the opportunity to detect and solve such problems so that future customers can rely on proper functioning and compatibility of standard-based equipment.

The Rennes Interop event also featured a series of technical conferences highlighting the following topics:

  • IMTC Interop and H.323 Forum Certification Testing process overview
  • Implementation of security for H.323 systems, including NAT and firewall traversal
  • ETSI Testing process overview, including H.323 testing and a description of the SIP-H.323 testbed

Open to non-IMTC members, these technical sessions drew a number of participants from French firms. The presentations are available on the IMTC website http://www.imtc.org.

About the IMTC
The International Multimedia Telecommunications Consortium (IMTC) is an industry-leading non-profit organization whose mission is to promote, encourage, and facilitate the development and implementation of interoperable multimedia conferencing solutions based on open international standards. The IMTC hosts interoperability testing events and demonstrations throughout the world. Over the past three years. The IMTC has hosted more than 60 interoperability-testing events to test H.323, H.324, SIP, T.120, H .320, and Voice over IP products and services with each other. The IMTC Board of Directors includes representatives from Avaya, Cisco Systems, France Telecom, Nokia, Polycom, RADVISION, Ridgeway, Siemens AG, Sony, TANDBERG, Telverse, and Worldcom. The San Ramon, California -based consortium comprises approximately 85 member organizations from around the globe. Membership is open to any interested party, including vendors of audio, document, and video conferencing hardware and software; academic institutions; government agencies; and non-profit organizations. "The IMTC is making Rich Media happen Anywhere, Anytime." Further information on IMTC and the Activity Groups can be found at http://www.imtc.org.

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