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What is CALEA?

CALEA, or the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, is a United States law that oversees telecommunication security which has now been expanded to Internet security.   The FBI and FCC worked together to specify what is expected of wired and wireless ISPs. There are some fairly harsh federal penalties for noncompliance that became effective in May 2007.

In the spirit of protecting the United States, the mission is not to make life miserable and expensive for operators and thwart communications, but rather to give the FBI and homeland security tools to wiretap Internet conversation on a moment's notice.   It is in this spirit that we offer a simple CALEA solution.

While we suspect it would be a rare occurrence for a small ISP to receive a warrant to comply, larger ISPs may be asked routinely for this information, and it would be potentially devastating to national security should the means to monitor conversation not be available.

Our promise to our customers:
We will provide a minimal compliance utility on our NetEqualizer platform and support these utilities without adding cost to the product, if possible.

To Learn More about CALEA  (back to top)

Federal Communications Commission (FCC):
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): Testimony on CALEA from September, 2004
Ask CALEA website: website:

NetEqualizer CALEA Functionality  (back to top)

In the words of a consultant working for CALEA and the FBI, here is the verbatim minimal requirement as we obtained via e-mail in order to determine our obligations as a Network Tool supplier. Norm wrote:

"Basically, an interception warrant would need to isolate and capture all communications to or from the subject of the warrant. The warrant could specify that only header information is to be provided (i.e., a Pen Register/Trap and Trace) or that header information and communications content should both be provided.

"The Packet Technologies and Services Committee (PTSC) has developed standard ATIS-1000013.2007 for CALEA compliance for landline ISPs (including WiFi and WiMAX). Unfortunately, ATIS has not yet posted the standard on its web site ("

1. Functionally, what does the Netequalizer CALEA release provide?

We provide a CALEA network probe with the following capabilities:

  • It will allow an ISP or other operator to comply with a basic warrant for information about a user by capturing and sending IP communications in real-time to a third party.
  • Communication may be captured in one of two ways:
    • by headers
    • by headers and content.

2. In what format is the data portion sent to a law enforcement agency?

We will provide basic descriptive tags identifying headers, data, and time stamps, along with HEX or ASCII representation of content data.

3. Do you meet the standards of the receiving law enforcement agency?

The law and specifications on "how" to deliver to a law enforcement agency are somewhat ambiguous. The FBI has created some detailed specifications, but the reality is that there are some 40,000 law enforcement agencies and they are given autonomy on how they receive data. We do provide samples on how to receive NetEqualizer-captured data on a third party server, but are unable to guarantee definite compliance with any specific agency.

4. Does the NetEqualizer do any analysis of the data?

No. We are only providing a probe function.

5. Is the NetEqualizer release fully CALEA compliant?

Although the law (see CALEA sections 103 and 107(a)(2)) is fairly specific on what needs to be done, the how is not addressed to any level of detail to which we can engineer our solution. Many people are following the ATIS specification which was put forth by the FBI, and we have read and attempted to comply with the probe portion of that specification. But, the reality is that there is no one agency given the authority to test a solution and bless it as compliant. So, if faced with a warrant for information, the law enforcement agency in charge may indeed want something in a slightly different format.

As best as we can tell at this time, there is no one government agency that can fully declare our technology CALEA compliant. However, we do pledge to work with our customers should they be faced with a warrant for information to adjust and even customize our solution; however additional fees may apply.

Note: Let us also mention that this is not a remotely automated process that will turn on or off without your knowledge. You will be in charge of setting it up with information such as MAC address or IP address to track, what information to collect, and where to send the information. See the NetEqualizer User Guide - Appendix for details on setting up CALEA on your system.

How to Get CALEA for your NetEqualizer  (back to top)

When will the NetEqualizer CALEA compliance module be available?

CALEA has been available since May 2007. We caveat our release as a "best effort", as there is still ambiguity on how to comply exactly with the requirement. However, we believe that there is enough information to get close to compliance, which is what we have done.

Is there be any additional cost for CALEA?

At this time CALEA functionality comes standard with all NetEqualizer models and is included in software update version 3.32b and greater. If you are on an older version of the NetEqualizer software, you can upgrade to software that includes CALEA functionality if you have purchased NSS (our yearly NetEqualizer Software Update and Support contract).

While NSS covers the CALEA software itself, NSS charges do not cover any consulting support requested to comply with an investigation. If you need support during an investigation, contact us for consulting rates.

To get current pricing for yearly NSS, please request the NetEqualizer Price List.

Will the CALEA module ship with newly purchased units?

Yes, any units purchased after March 2007 are CALEA-enabled.

Will the upgrade cost for the CALEA module always remain the same?

We cannot promise a fixed price for future upgrades. If the complexity of this feature gets "out of hand," we may have to label it a "nonstandard" upgrade and charge, essentially making it a new product rather than an upgrade and charge accordingly. At this time our plans are to keep it as a standard upgrade.