Zfone: A New Approach for Securing VoIP Communication

Contributed by Samuel Sotillo and restored from the Infosecwriters archive.

This paper reviews some security challenges currently faced by VoIP systems as well as their potential solutions. Particularly, it focuses on Zfone, a vendor-neutral security solution developed by PGP’s creator, Phil Zimmermann. Zfone is based on the Z Real-time Transport Protocol (ZRTP), which is an extension of the Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP). ZRTP offers a very simple and robust approach to providing protection against the most common type of VoIP threats. Basically, the protocol offers a mechanism to guarantee high entropy in a Diffie-Hellman key exchange by using a session key that is computed through the hashing several secrets, including a short authentication string that is read aloud by callers. The common shared secret is calculated and used only for one session at a time. However, the protocol allows for a part of the shared secret to be cached for future sessions. The mechanism provides for protection for man-in-the-middle, call hijack, spoofing, and other common types of attacks. Also, this paper explores the fact that VoIP security is a very complicated issue and that the technology is far from being inherently insecure as many people usually claim.

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