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Cisco is beefing up the security of IP telephony kit with an upgrade to its software available from today. A new version of the network giant's IP PBX software, Cisco CallManager 4.1, comes with new enhanced encryption facilities, including Voice over Virtual Private Network (V3PN) functionality.

Encryption features had previously only been available on Cisco's high-end phones - such as the 7960G - but the vendor is now making the technology more mainstream. The majority (2.5m out of 3.5m) of the IP phones Cisco has shipped thus far will be able to use the enhanced scrambling technology after users upgrade their software.

Additionally, extended Q.SIG inter-working support in the new software is designed to ease migration from legacy PBX systems to IP. Q.SIG is a protocol for communication between PBX systems of different vendors. Cisco is also announcing secure private messaging for Cisco Unity, adding an encrypted messaging feature that protects the contents of voice messages to its unified messaging application.

IP telephony is potentially subject to a number of attacks ranging from eavesdropping to impersonation to toll fraud through breaking into corporate voice mail systems. Denials of service attacks are also possible. IP Telephony can slash phone bills and is not necessarily a major security risk, according to Cisco. Tim Stone, marketing manager for IP comms and security at Cisco EMEA, said that security is not necessarily top of customer's agendas when they consider introducing IP telephony but it is a "consistent concern". "IP Telephony can be made as secure, if not more secure, than traditional PBXs with a layered approach to security," he said.

Cisco CallManager 4.1 software with a Cisco Media Convergence Server starts at $5,995. Cisco CallManager 4.1 software is now available as a no-cost upgrade for Cisco CallManager 4.0 customers. Media encryption software on Cisco Media Gateways is a standard option in the recently introduced Cisco Integrated Services Router. The new secure voice messaging feature in Cisco Unity 4.04 comes at no additional cost. ®

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