Name: Lawful Interception Overview

Text: Lawful Interception

Lawful Interception Overview

LI deals with two ‘products’, these are; Contents of Communications
(CC) and Intercept Related Information (IRI). Contents of
Communications is exactly what it sounds like: the voice, video
or message contents. Intercept Related Information refers to the
signalling information, the source and destination of the call etc.


awful Interception (LI) is a requirement placed upon
service providers to provide legally sanctioned official
access to private communications. With the existing
Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), Lawful
Interception is performed by applying a physical ‘tap’ on
the telephone line of the target in response to a warrant from
a Law Enforcement Agency (LEA). However, Voice over IP
(VoIP) technology has enabled the mobility of the end-user,
so it is no longer possible to guarantee the interception of
calls based on tapping a physical line.

Figure 1 shows the logical flow of Intercept Related Information
(IRI) and Contents of Communications (CC) from its collection
in the Public Network to the handover interface to the Law
Enforcement Monitoring Facility (LEMF) as defined by ETSI. In
North America CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law
Enforcement Act) requires operators to provide LI capabilities. The
network architecture and handover specifications are based on the
PacketCable™ surveillance model shown in Figure 2 below, the
general architectural similarities can be seen.

Whilst the detailed requirements for LI may differ from one jurisdiction
to another, the general requirements are the same. The LI system
must provide transparent interception of specified traffic only and
the subject must not be aware of the interception. The service
provided to other users must not be affected during interception.

PacketCable Telecommunication Service Provider

Architecture Overview

Although the detail of LI may vary from country to country we
can look at the general logical and physical requirements and
also explain much of the common terminology used. The primary
purpose of the service provider network is to enable private
communications between individuals; any LI functionality built into
the network must not affect the normal service to those individuals.
The architecture requires a distinct separation of the Public
Telecom Network (PTN) and the networks used for distribution and
processing of LI information. The interfaces between the PTN and
the Law Enforcement Monitoring Facility (LEMF) are standardised
within a particular territory.

Intercept Access
(for Call Data)

Intercept Access
(for Call Content)

Delivery Function

Intercept Access
(for Call Content)




Demarcation Point



Law Enforcement Agency

Figure 2 – PacketCable™ Surveillance Model

Figure 3 below shows the high-level functions and interfaces as
defined by ETSI, the Mediation Function (MF) provides standardized
interfaces, HI2 – Intercept Related Information, and HI3 – Call
Contents, from the Public Telecom Network to the LEA Network.

Public Network
LEA Network
Network Operator's


Internal Intercept Function

Intercept Related
Information (IRI)
Content of
Communication (CC)


Internal Network
Interfaces INI







LI Handover
Interface HI





Public Telecom Network


HI2, HI3

LEA Network



Figure 1 - General Network Arrangements for Interception (ETSI)


Figure 3 - Distinction between PTN and Law Enforcement Network

Lawful Interception Overview Page 2

© 2006 Newport Networks Ltd

Basic Elements of LI in a Public Telecom

Public Telecoms Network

There are three primary elements required within the public network
to achieve Lawful Interception, these are:
 An Internal Intercept Function (IIF) located in the network

A Mediation Function (MF) between the PTN and LEMF.

An Administration Function (ADMF) to manage orders for
interception in the PTN.

Secure Connection
Tasking Data
Interception Data

Web Based GUI



Backup Administration Unit

Internal Intercept Function (IIF)

LI Administration Function

These functions are located within the network nodes and are
responsible for generating the Intercept Related Information (IRI)
and Contents of Communications (CC).

Mediation Function (MF)
This function clearly delineates the PTN from
communicates with the IIFs using Internal Network
which can be proprietary. The MF communicates
LEMFs through locally standardized interfaces:
Interfaces (HI2 and HI3).




Backup Mediation Unit

the LEMF. It
Interfaces (INIs)
to one or more
the Handover

HI2 - Intercept Related Information
HI3 - Contents of Communication

Administration Function (ADMF)

Law Enforcement
Monitoring Facility

This function handles the serving of interception orders and
communicates with the IIFs and MF though an Internal Network

Implementing LI within an VoIP Network
One of the primary problems that service providers face when
managing VoIP and multimedia calls is the separation of the
signalling and media streams. In other words it is quite possible
that the two streams may take completely different paths through
the network. In addition, even when they do pass through the
same device, it may not be aware of the relationship between the
streams. Some devices within the network are however specifically
designed to understand and manage the separate signalling and
media streams – session border controllers. Typically located at
the borders of the service provider’s network, these offer an ideal
location to implement the IIF as they receive Intercept Related
Information from the signalling stream and can intercept Contents
of Communication directly from the media stream.

LI Mediation Function

Law Enforcement
Agency (LEA)

Figure 4 –Example Physical Architecture

Figure 4 above shows the physical elements of the LI system, their
logical functions and the interfaces to the LEMF.
LI Administration Function (ADMF) is typically implemented on
a hardened Management Unit; it provides a secure method to
enable traffic to be targeted and routed. The ADMF uses a secure
connection to one or more of the IIFs and to one or more Mediation
Units. The ADMF is often backed up by a warm standby, which
replicates all data between the units.
LI Mediation Function (MF) performs the mediation and delivery
functions, it is typically implemented on a hardened Mediation
Unit; it receives generic formatted IRI and CC data from one or
more IIFs and translates it into the country specific format for the
Handover Interfaces (HI2 & HI3) to the LEMF. The MF receives
target details from the ADMF and validates the received IRI and
CC data to ensure that only the warranted data is passed to the
LEMF. The MF usually supports the forwarding of intercepted traffic
to many LEMF interfaces simultaneously. The Mediation Unit is
often backed up by a slave unit which takes over in case of failure
of the primary unit.

Lawful Interception Overview Page 3

© 2006 Newport Networks Ltd

Internal Intercept Function (IIF) is most effective when implemented
in hardware within the network nodes in order to provide the most
effective and rapid detection without incurring additional software
processing and delays which may allow the presence of the intercept
to be detected. The IIF collects Intercept Related Information (IRI)
and Contents of Communication (CC) ask requested by the ADMF,
and converts these to a generic format which is passed to the MF.

Administration Functions
The ADMF must only be accessed by authorized users. It will
manage the deployment of tasks to the other LI elements.
Tasking Targets – Each target will require a Warrant ID and Case
ID assigned by the LEA. Each case may require IRI or CC or both
to be intercepted. Each task is assigned a start date and an end
date, upon which the case will expire.

execute a number of access, security and quality management
roles; they offer an ideal location to implement a Lawful Intercept
solution. Carrier class SBCs already offer the levels of redundancy
and resilience to provide ‘five 9s’ availability, further endorsing
their suitability for the location of the IIF.


Administration Function


Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act


Contents of Communication


European Telecommunications Standards Institute


Handover Interface


Internal Intercept Function


Internal Networks Interface


Intercept Related Information


Law Enforcement Agency


Law Enforcement Monitoring Facility


Lawful Interception

Information Volatility


Mediation Function

Essential target information must be encrypted by the ADMF
and any information stored in the IIF in encoded form, thereby
preventing unauthorized access to sensitive warrant information.
Any information stored within the IIF should be stored in volatile
memory, so that this information is erased if a component of the
network node is removed or powered down. Only the encrypted
database of the ADMF should be maintained during power-down


Public Switched Telephone Network


Public Telecom Network


Voice over IP

Auditing Tasks – The ADMF is typically responsible for auditing
the network of IIFs to ensure that the target lists match; differences
should be automatically reconciled.
Mediation Function Configuration – Each interface to the LEMF must
be individually specified to match the required standard output.

In the event of a link failure between the MF and the LEMF the
intercept products may be buffered for a short time in memory only.
Any long term failure of the interface will result in intercept products
being lost – this information must not be spooled to permanent

Recently it has become increasingly clear that VoIP services will
be expected to provide Lawful Intercept and Emergency Call
Handling services to the same level experienced in the PSTN.
The FCC in North America for example has mandated that both
emergency calls and Lawful Intercept must be available. Whilst not
all countries mandate this capability, any network operator building
a publicly available voice or multimedia over IP service today will
need to plan a network which is flexible enough to implement
these regulatory services in the future. Session border controllers
are being deployed at strategic points within VoIP networks to

ETSI TS 101 331 - Telecommunications security; Lawful
Interception (LI) Requirements of Law Enforcement Agencies
ETSI TR 101 943 - Telecommunications security; Lawful
Interception (LI); Concepts of Interception in a Generic Network
ETSI TS 101 671 - Telecommunications security; Lawful
Interception (LI); Handover interface for the lawful interception of
telecommunications traffic
PKT-SP-ESP1.5-I01-050128; PacketCable™ 1.5 Specifications;
Electronic Surveillance
A summary of the ETSI LI specs is located at:
Current ETSI specs can be downloaded from:
Current PacketCable™ specs can be found at:

Lawful Interception Overview Page 4

© 2006 Newport Networks Ltd

The Newport Networks’ logo is a registered trademark of Newport Networks Ltd. MediaProxy™ and SignallingProxy™ are trademarks of Newport Networks Ltd. ©2006 Newport Networks Limited. All rights reserved. Whilst every effort has been made to
ensure that the information included in this publication is accurate at the time of going to press, Newport Networks Ltd assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information. Newport Networks Ltd reserves the right to change their specifications at any
time without prior notice. Some features described in this document may be planned for future releases and may not be available in the current product. Newport Networks Ltd reserves the right to modify its product development schedule without notice and
does not guarantee that any feature or product mentioned in this document will be produced or produced in the form described.

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