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Q&A with Cisco Senior Network Consultant Akhil Behl, Author of Securing Cisco IP Telephony Networks

Meet Akhil Behl, the author of Cisco Press’s new release, Securing Telephony Networks. This new book fills the gap between IP telephony and security realms and serves as a reference literature which addresses Cisco IP Telephony — application, device, endpoint, and network security from an end-to-end perspective.
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Pearson: Tell us about yourself.

My name is Akhil Behl and I’ve been in the field of IT and networking for almost ten years. For the last eight years I have been associated with Cisco and have played several roles such as, Cisco TAC Escalation Engineer (for security and voice teams), Cisco Advanced Services Network Consulting Engineer, and currently I am working with Cisco Advanced Services in the capacity of Senior Network Consultant. Prior to joining Cisco, I was with Linksys Technical Support as a Technical Lead.

In my current profile, I am responsible for leading teams working towards the common goal of delivering excellence to Cisco Advanced Services customers as well as the Cisco commercial sector consumer base, via Collaborative Professional Services (CPS). I lead collaboration and security projects worldwide in my present portfolio. This includes (but is not limited to) network designing, consulting, deployment, coordinating between Cisco’s internal and external clientele, and technical project management. I have dual CCIE in Voice and Security. I also hold many industry certifications, such as CCNA, CCVP, CCSP, CCDP, ITIL, PMP, and VCP.

Pearson: Tell us about your new release. Who is it for, and what is it about?

Behl: Securing Cisco IP Telephony Networks is a project that I started a couple of years ago with one ambition: to fill the gap between IP telephony and security realms. This book serves as a reference literature which addresses Cisco IP Telephony— application, device, endpoint, and network security from an end-to-end perspective. The book starts with an introduction to the world of Cisco IP Telephony security, explores the rationale behind securing IP telephony networks, develops a security framework which acts as a blueprint to secure Cisco IP telephony networks, and from there works through network, application, device, endpoint, and network management security specifics. The book also covers Cisco IP Telephony security basics such as, encryption and authentication mechanisms, firewalling, intrusion prevention and much more.

This book is for everyone who is directly or indirectly associated with Cisco’s collaboration portfolio and wants to leverage the power of Cisco IP Telephony. I would recommend this book to everyone associated with Cisco IP telephony, security, and infrastructure technologies, as the book is written with easy-to-understand concepts backed up with real world experience. Most importantly, it includes step-by-step examples that engineers, administrators, architects, and consultants can follow to implement end-to-end security in a Cisco IP Telephony environment, whether it is deployed in a manufacturing facility, financial institution, government agency, healthcare institute, or university.

Pearson: Why did you decide to write a book on this topic?

Behl: I have done a lot of work in the field of Cisco IP Telephony security over the last 5+ years. During this time, I realized that there was no single comprehensive book which harmonized security pertinent to Cisco IP Telephony. IP Telephony security is a niche area—and more often than not, organizations/key stakeholders are wary of deploying security when it comes to securing the backbone of their business: communications.

All current titles related to VoIP security cater to generic voice protocol and stack level security. However, when it comes to Cisco IP Telephony security, there’s no single source that captures the specifics and details pertinent to Cisco collaboration portfolio. This prompted me to think about writing a book on Cisco-specific IP Telephony security that can be used as a guide and a reference by people who are tasked with securing Cisco IP Telephony networks.

Pearson: What makes your book unique?

Behl: Securing Cisco IP Telephony Networks is specific to Cisco technologies, ranging from infrastructure to firewalling to intrusion prevention to applications. It focuses specifically on Cisco IP Telephony security, encompassing implementation, configuration, features, and maintenance—all backed by leading practice recommendations. The book covers security of Cisco IP based communications, building on a security framework which reduces the likelihood of threats maturing as result of ad-hoc implementation of security controls and procedures.

The main focus is on a comprehensive understanding of the Cisco IP Telephony security to attain a secure IP communications network, which can defend and deter threats, both internal and external. This book is not just for engineers and administrators, it is also for architects, consultants, and executives since it covers security from architecture to business to technology perspective. The goal of this book to help network/security/telephony engineers, administrators, architects, technology consultants, and key decision makers to do their job better by implementing a robust, resilient, successful, and well-maintained Cisco IP Telephony network.

Pearson: What is the most beneficial thing people should know about your book?

Behl: Securing Cisco IP Telephony Networks is focused on Cisco collaboration, network infrastructure, and security portfolio. While these technologies can be quite theoretical, I have integrated a number of examples and case studies that are based on the real-world scenarios to enlighten the reader and increase their understanding of the concepts pertinent to security of Cisco IP Telephony applications, underlying network infrastructure, and endpoints, all geared towards latest software revision 8.5 for Cisco collaboration portfolio (available at the time of release of this title). One of the salient features is detailed coverage of risk assessment, security controls, security policy, and framework specifically for Cisco IP Telephony networks. I am certain that the reader on completion their reading of the text will have a comprehensive understanding of Cisco IP Telephony security, backed by leading practices, examples, and concepts; from both business and technical perspective.

Pearson: What are your areas of interest apart from your passion for technology?

Behl: Apart from delivery and thought leadership, I like to speak on topics pertinent to technology that impact the business landscape. I have presented at diverse industry forums such as Interop, Enterprise Connect, Cisco Networkers, Cloud Connect, Cloud Summit, Computer Society of India, and Cisco SecCon.

I also like writing on technology topics around security and cloud. I have several research papers published in international journals, around security and cloud security. I have contributed and presented at multiple IEEE forums. I have written technology papers focused on Cisco IP Telephony security which are published in Cisco Technical Knowledge Library (TKL) .

Last however, certainly not the least, I like to teach Cisco VoIP and security concepts. I deliver Cisco internal boot camps and virtual sessions focused on these technology areas.

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