13 December 2017

Mauritius: Phone tapping fear over MT's fibre optics

Is Mauritius Telecom's (MT) efforts to replace all copper phone lines with high-performance fibre optics good news or a potential security threat that risks making phone tapping easier? An IT engineer in Quatre Bornes has filed a complaint with the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA), arguing that fibre optics will make phone users more vulnerable to surveillance and attacks.

The engineer, Sanjoy Gokulsing, filed the complaint after MT tried to convince him to accept the swap from copper to fibre twice. When he refused, the company cut his phone line. However, he has no intention of letting the issue go.

According to Gokulsing, it's easier to tap phones that are connected to fibre optics networks. It's an argument that seems to be in line with a report from the International Data Corporation (IDC). The report states that it is possible for hackers to break into the fibre optics network without even being detected. Their modus operandi is to extract light from the fibres. They then use a software to monitor and record the data, meaning the phone calls and the internet activity. According to the IDC, there have been instances of fibre optics networks getting hacked in the UK.

In his complaint, Gokulsing also argues that MT's fibre optics raises a safety concern of a different kind. Unlike the old phones, the new fibre optic phones run on electricity. If there is a power cut, phone users will thus not be able to rely on their landlines.

The engineer is now waiting for ICTA to look into the complaint.

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