As emerging technologies such as the internet of things and autonomous vehicles expand the scope and volume of traffic transmitted over public communications networks, new data types are enabling novel intelligence sources for law enforcement agencies (LEAs). Regulation of these sources differs significantly from the historical focus on interpersonal communications, however, and while not all these machine-to-machine transmissions will ultimately fall under the legal authority of the US Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) or similar regulations worldwide, the broader impact on lawful intelligence is clear.
To address increasing traffic, communication service providers (CSPs) are employing network slicing technology, which allows the prioritization of specific classes of network traffic by governing access to shared resources, especially in a cloud context. This supports Quality of Experience (QoE) and Quality of Service (QoS) requirements, especially for latency-sensitive or otherwise-critical workloads, as data volumes continue to grow. It also provides an emerging, beneficial category of rich intercept-related information (IRI) to help LEAs derive the greatest possible benefit from data resources.
How Network Slicing is Offered and Monetized by CSPs
Fundamentally, network slicing allows multiple end-to-end logical networks on the same physical network infrastructure. The slices are multiplexed together, but each guarantees a distinct set of resources tailored to individual application requirements. Using this approach, the CSP ensures adherence to throughput, latency, reliability, and security requirements for any number of traffic categories, regardless of overall congestion or related issues.
Thousands of slices can coexist on a shared network, each with its own distinct QoE and QoS properties. The slicing schema can also be provisioned and modified dynamically as needed, which enables automation. Slices provisioned by a CSP operate independently of differences in topology and equipment as traffic traverses multiple networks. This capability is defined within the 5G standard by 3GPP specifications, dramatically improving on 4G and previous generations, which required separate, complex physical networks or VPNs for each type of traffic.
From the CSP perspective, network slicing provides revenue opportunities from premium service tiers. High-performance slices may support safety-critical applications for industrial automation or connected vehicles, or latency-sensitive ones such as gaming or communications, for example. More generally, network slicing can tailor resources to individual traffic types even within a given use case, such as providing low latency for vehicle-to-vehicle collision avoidance and high bandwidth for in-vehicle infotainment. Network slicing can also be used to offer services that are specific to individual CSP customers, such as dedicated network resources across the public internet.
Benefits of Network Slicing for Lawful Intelligence
Network slice information provides an additional IRI data point for LEA analysts, adding substantial investigative value. For example, an investigation might benefit from being able to identify the employer of a subject of interest. In the simplest cases, that task may only require contacting a known business to verify employment. On the other hand, such an approach can be inappropriate when that business is the subject of the investigation or if no information is available to suggest a likely employer.
The existence of a CSP’s network slice for a specific corporate customer may enable an LEA to associate intercepted data with that customer where it otherwise couldn’t, revealing the subject of interest’s employer. This context can then help LEAs target queries more effectively against certain traffic types and sources within intercepted datasets.
Network Slicing and Privacy Concerns
Conversely, network slicing may play a role in governing the legal status of certain types of data for lawful interception. Privacy considerations around machine-to-machine data transmissions are likely to be a significant consideration in the coming years as the proportion of non-human endpoints on public networks continues to grow. CALEA, for example, was originally applied only to telephone companies, which was logical when the law was created in 1994 but showed growing limitations as internet-based communications became prevalent in the decade that followed.
In response, several US agencies petitioned the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to expand CALEA’s reach, so that it would apply to providers of broadband, VoIP, and other online services. The counterargument by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others included the premise that online data exchange between machines does not constitute “communication” in the sense intended by CALEA. The FCC ruled in favor of the CALEA expansion in 2005, however, rejecting that distinction.
Similar rulings for or against individual types of lawful interception will shape intelligence gathering practices for points of intercept (POI) such as IoT devices and connected vehicles in the coming years. For example, warrants may need to specify the individual network slice being targeted for interception. While the specific impacts of these decisions on lawful intelligence remains to be seen, SS8 is working with LEAs, CSPs, and technology providers to evolve our platform to help investigators take full advantage of current and future opportunities presented by network slicing.
About Dr. Cemal Dikmen
As SS8’s CTO, Cemal plays an integral role in the company’s strategic direction, development, and future growth. A renowned expert and thought leader in the legal compliance and communications analysis domain, he has been a frequent speaker at various industry conferences over the past 10 years. Cemal holds BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Electrical Engineering. You can learn more about Cemal on his LinkedIn profile by clicking here.
About Lynn Herrick
Lynn is an experienced technical solutions architect with 20+ years of pre/post-sales support experience. He has proven consulting expertise working with carriers as they migrate voice and data application solutions (VAS- Value Added Services) from 3G, 4G and 5G mobile networks in accordance with the ever-evolving standard bodies e.g., ETSI, 3GPP and IETF; as core networks move from circuit switch, packet switched and the 5GC CUPs architecture. Lynn has in-depth knowledge of implementing application solutions into a carrier’s virtualized environments as either a VNF or CNF. You can learn more about Lynn here.
About John MacCaulay
John has over four decades of experience working in the telecommunications field and has been with SS8 since 2007. As a Senior Sales Engineer for SS8, he continually studies advances in the telecommunications market and how they will impact the services communication providers are able to deliver to intelligence agencies. When he’s not reviewing the latest market trends, you can find him recharging his batteries spending time with family and hiking in the mountains.
About SS8 Networks
As a leader in Lawful and Location Intelligence, SS8 helps make societies safer. Our commitment is to extract, analyze, and visualize the critical intelligence that gives law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and emergency services the real-time insights that save lives. Our high performance, flexible, and future-proof solutions also enable mobile network operators to achieve regulatory compliance with minimum disruption, time, and cost. SS8 is trusted by the largest government agencies, communications providers, and systems integrators globally.
Intellego® XT monitoring and data analytics portfolio is optimized for Law Enforcement Agencies to capture, analyze, and visualize complex data sets for real-time investigative intelligence.
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