© Formactual Projects Ltd t/a PTT



Diverted down the wrong road

February 19th, 2024

IP routing

We take it for granted that when we click on a link to visit a web page, we will be directed to the intended web site. But ensuring traffic reaches its intended destination depends on interactions between computers and networks around the world that are operated by many different organisations. And the routing process depends on trust. When network A tells network B that it can provide a route to destination C, network B assumes network A is run by good guys and believes them.

Routes are advertised using border gateway protocol (BGP) messages. In the early days of the Internet, it was a reasonable assumption that those BGP messages could be trusted. But as the Internet has grown, that is no longer the case. Those with bad intent may hijack the BGP system to divert traffic to their servers to harvest information or money. Hijacking BGP routing is analogous to an adversary changing road signs, redirecting traffic under the pretence of leading them to their intended destination.

A BGP weakness was exploited in 2018 to divert traffic destined for a cryptocurrency website to the hijackers’ phishing site on a server in Russia. During the attack, which lasted for two hours, the hijackers stole $150,000 in cryptocurrency. Although the cryptocurrency site relied on Amazon Web Services (AWS), the hijacking was possible without having to attack the AWS or cryptocurrency servers. Instead, the hacker advertised a supposedly more attractive route to the cryptocurrency site to an Ohio-based internet service provider who took the advert on trust and passed it on to others.

Apart from the activities of those with bad intent, human error can also cause significant disruption. In 2021, it was reported that a Vodafone India network mistakenly advertised that it provided routes to thousands of addresses, when it didn’t, causing the internet to flood this network with traffic that was not meant to go through it. This had a major impact on service providers around the world including Google.

There have been many more examples of the disruption caused by incorrect routing in recent years. Various measures to combat the vulnerability of BGP are now available but not all network operators have adopted them.

PTT’s new online course “Exterior IP routing” describes the role and operation of BGP and the security measures that can be taken to protect the global routing system. Its sister course “Interior IP routing” is also available.


Light speed satellite communications

January 4th, 2024

Conventional low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications over long distances may involve multiple hops between satellites and ground-based antennae with a subsequent increase in latency. Providing direct communications between LEO satellites using lasers allows a communications session to be forwarded between satellites minimising the number of satellite to ground station links involved in the session.

The Amazon LEO initiative Project Kuiper has recently completed a test of an optical inter-satellite link (OISL) operating at 100 Gbit/s over a distance of over 600 km. Project Kuiper has the aim of providing a mesh of inter-satellite links providing global low latency communications.

Reducing the number of hops reduces propagation distances with a subsequent reduction in delay. Since optical signals travel faster in space than through glass fibre, the latency of the OISL system should be lower than that of an equivalent terrestrial optical fibre system.

But terrestrial optical links offer even faster transmission speeds. Cienna has recently rolled out a nation-wide optical fibre network in South Korea spanning 1,000 km and capable of transmitting at 600 Gbit/s per wavelength.
The Cienna system achieves these high speeds using coherent detection. Optical add-drop multiplexers allow individual wavelengths to be switched to serve different locations.

PTT offers online courses introducing LEO satellite communications and optical coherent detection.


Looking forward to telecommunications in 2024

December 19th, 2023

Telecoms over a city

Telecommunications will continue to undergo significant advancements in the coming year, shaping the way people communicate, connect and conduct business. With telecommunications technology continuing to evolve, here are just a few areas where we will likely see ongoing development:

5G expansion: The deployment of 5G networks will continue to expand, bringing faster speeds, lower latency, and enhanced connectivity. This will enable seamless experiences for consumers, enabling them to stream high-definition content, participate in immersive virtual experiences and embrace IoT (Internet of Things) devices in their daily lives. For businesses, the massive machine to machine capabilities of 5G Standalone will provide new opportunities for streamlining and automating their operations.

Optical fibre in the access network: The provision of fibre to the home and business premises will continue its rapid expansion bringing gigabit speeds to many more users. This in turn will allow telecoms providers to retire their copper access networks leading to reduced costs and increased reliability.

AI and automation: Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play a pivotal role in telecommunications. AI-driven chatbots and virtual assistants will be increasingly used with the aim to enhance customer service experiences, offering instant support and personalised interactions. AI-powered network optimisation will also ensure better reliability and efficiency in telecommunications infrastructure.

IoT integration: The integration of IoT devices will continue to see growth, transforming various industries. Smart-homes, connected healthcare devices, and efficient transportation systems will become more prevalent, offering convenience, efficiency, and improved services.

Edge computing: Edge computing will gain traction, enabling data processing closer to the end-user. This will reduce latency, enhance security, and support real-time applications, crucial for emerging technologies like autonomous vehicles and augmented reality.

Telecommuting solutions: The trend of remote work will persist, with home workers needing fast, reliable networks. High-quality video conferencing, collaborative tools, and increasing use of augmented reality will continue to enhance remote work experiences, fostering productivity and collaboration.

PTT will continue to develop up-to-date telecommunications training solutions throughout 2024. With our comprehensive course catalogue, businesses and individuals will continue to benefit from a wide range of training solutions from foundational subjects to advanced topics on the latest technologies in the industry.