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The Large Immortal Machine and the Ticking Time Bomb

Susan Landau

Harvard University; Sun Microsystems, Inc.

March 23, 2012

Designers of the first electronic telephone switches nicknamed them the "large immortal machines" because switches last decades. The 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) requires that all digital-switched telephone networks be built wiretap enabled; the law took longevity of switches into account by authorizing funding to update switches in place. But by failing to analyze how threat models would change in a highly connected IP-based world, CALEA did not consider the longevity of switches prospectively. As an architected security breach, CALEA compliance is a ticking time bomb. This paper discusses how this situation arose, and what policy the Federal Communications Commission should be following the alleviate the problem.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 35

Keywords: communications, wiretap, interception, CALEA, security, telephone switch

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Date posted: March 26, 2012 ; Last revised: April 5, 2012

Suggested Citation

Landau, Susan, The Large Immortal Machine and the Ticking Time Bomb (March 23, 2012). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2028152 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2028152

Contact Information

Susan Landau (Contact Author)
Harvard University ( email )
1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.privacyink.org
Sun Microsystems, Inc. ( email )
United States
HOME PAGE: http://research.sun.com/people/slandau/
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