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Cisco is pressing ahead with plans to make it easier for law enforcement agencies to monitor IP telephony calls.

The networking equipment giant is "testing surveillance products in its labs and making the service available to customers on request", Cisco spokesman Jim Brady told AP.

Although the technology is yet to be deployed, surveillance capability has been built into a number of products, Cisco says.

The company has submitted a standard for a "Lawful Intercept In IP Networks" service to the IETF back in March. Although still only a draft, Cisco latest statement on the subject shows that the undetectable tapping of IT Telephony calls is just around the corner.

A key requirement of the standard is for intercepts to remain undetectable. Cisco has also put some thought into securing the technology from misuse by crackers. When a service provider encrypts traffic (for example using a VPN) tunnel the standard provides for a mechanism for ISPs to turn over encryption keys to law enforcement agencies.

Wiretaps are normally made only with judicial oversight. Cisco says it's up to its customers to make sure that relevant laws are observed. In developing the technology, which essentially provides a more targeted and elegant means to do something that's already possible, Cisco says it is only responding to customer demand.

The lawful interception draft was developed by Fred Baker, a Cisco fellow and former chairman of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

Prior to the availability of the technology, CNet's Declan McCullagh conducted an informative interview with Baker on the subject. ®

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