BBC deploys VPN for journalists

BBC journalists in the war zones of Iraq or North Africa will be able to access their e-mails and send written news reports from...

BBC journalists in the war zones of Iraq or North Africa will be able to access their e-mails and send written news reports from the field when the corporation goes live with a new virtual private network next month.

The technology will allow journalists to maintain contact with the London newsroom when in remote areas. It will also be useful when finding a high quality phone line or a mobile base station proves difficult, Andy Leigh, information security specialist at the BBC will tell the Infosecurity conference next week.

"If there is no telephone infrastructure, journalists find themselves using whatever they can get their hands on," he said.

Reporters are accustomed to using satellite links to beam pictures to the UK, but filing written stories or sending and receiving e-mails has proved more difficult.

The BBC plans to give its journalists specially configured lap-tops that can be connected to a phone line, or an Ethernet connection in a hotel or local embassy to create communication links with the UK.

To protect the BBC network the laptops will be fitted with sophisticated security software that will only allow journalists to make connections if their machines are protected with anti-virus software and firewalls.

The BBC tested the VPN with 100 users for four months late last year. The corporation took extensive soundings from the news-gathering division and consulted with news journalists before designing the system, said Leigh.

The system will be available from the middle of May and will eventually serve up to 6,000 people. BBC businesses will buy access to the system, which means it could pay for itself within a year to 18 months, depending on the take-up, said Leigh.

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