Editorial : You Have BSS and OSS, Now Comes ISS

Posted in Articles, Billing, Security
Service providers have BSS and OSS, and now they will need intelligence support systems (ISS). A new industry and products will be created in the process.

Before getting into what ISS is all about and what is driving this new market, first some background. Intelligence is about gathering information on users including criminal suspects, and that of course requires surveillance.

So let’s start with surveillance. The reality today is that service providers have to face up to the fact that having surveillance capabilities is now a vital part of business. Why? First, it’s the law. The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) requires that telecommunications carriers have the capability, capacity and security procedures in place to support law enforcement. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. You have the USA Patriot Act of October 2001 and the Homeland Security Act of 2002. This takes surveillance support to the next level, because now you are talking about lawfully authorized Internet surveillance. CALEA, in its initial focus, was about voice calls—“Who called the suspect, and who did the suspect call?”—and wiretap support.

The new government mandates now require gathering the same intelligence for Internet sessions (email, and the very challenging VoIP). But there is more. The new government mandate requires infrastructure protection. Just as the FCC has taken a firm position on protecting its infrastructure against physical attack, it and other government agencies will require protection of the Internet infrastructure against cyber attacks like the Slammer Worm and Code Red attacks last year that took out hundreds of thousands of computer sites.

At this point, you may think the new requirements are about computer or Internet security and not about surveillance and intelligence gathering. That is not true, because there is a difference. Security means you adopt measures to guard against an attack; surveillance and subsequent intelligence gathering is about getting the bad guys before, during or after an attack.

What Do You Call These New Sets of Products?

Internet surveillance and infrastructure protection will require a new set of professionals, products or outsourcing services. But the question is what do you call this new industry segment that is associated with the chilly name surveillance?

If you want to call everyone’s attention to what’s going on, you could call it “Surveillance Support Systems” or SSS. But this is probably not the most politically correct name. It brings up the thought of World War II, and that of course rattles the chains of privacy advocates.

If you want to capture the flavor of supporting law enforcement, the politically correct name would be, “Lawfully Authorized Electronically Supported Surveillance” or LAESS. But this acronym has too many letters, and besides, this description doesn’t address the subject of infrastructure protection.

Of course, you could emphasize protection and call it “Infrastructure Protection Support” or IPS. However, this would give the impression that you are talking about protecting buildings or locations that house telecommunications equipment, and ignoring the Internet aspects.

Finally, “Intelligence Support Systems” or ISS puts the right focus on what is going on. The acronym captures both elements of this new space; service providers gathering intelligence to support law enforcement and at the same time protecting their own infrastructure.

Why BSS, OSS, and ISS Go Together

ISS is a natural fit with OSS and BSS. For example, as service providers move to customer self-care, they begin to depend heavily on the public Internet for their OSS and BSS networking needs. If you aren’t watching the bad guy, (intelligence gathering) they can shut you down. You can have the most secure pre-ordering and ordering Web site, but it does no good if your customers can’t get to it (infrastructure protection).

Billing and ISS go hand in hand as well. Note that government mandates require ISPs to provide subscriber information on email, voice mail, sources of payment, records of session times, temporary IP addresses and so on, which can all be gathered from a billing system or other BSS. Besides content providers are asking wireless service providers for usage profiles of content subscribers, so BSS and ISS again are synergistic.

Finally, when you look at how intelligence is gathered from billions of Internet events in real-time, you are talking about an almost identical infrastructure used (e.g., mediation systems) in telecommunications OSS today.

As much as privacy advocates may cringe at the thought of service providers and their suppliers developing ISS, it’s a post-9/11 reality.

If ISS is confusing, disturbing or exciting and you need insights as to what’s going on, plan to attend TeleStrategies’ “Understanding Lawfully Authorized Internet Surveillance and Infrastructure Protection” conference on May 29-30, 2003, in McLean, Va. For more information, or to register, go to www.telestrategies.com/theclub or call 703.734.2600.
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