Extra Security for your Mobile Communication: DTLS

Data Transport Layer Security (DTLS) is an important protocol within the internet security architecture, allowing for secure data transmission over networks. This article aims to provide an overview of DTLS and its underlying principles, as well as outlining applications and implementations of the protocol. DTLS is based on the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol, which it uses to secure network communications.

Cybercrime, SMS spamming and the need for mobile security have all increased over the past 2 years and will continue to increase as more people turn to digital communication and online banking. The need to understand and implement additional security features has never been greater.

Your mobile phone is now a passport, an ID, your online bank, your eWallet and your means of communicating through social media, SMS, email, and phone calls. With more features on your mobile phone, comes an increased need to protect your personal data and you must ensure that you are knowledgeable about the security features that you are using.

What is DTLS?

It is the latest protocol in communications used to protect data privacy and is constantly being improved. You might have heard that the App called Telegram has never been hacked, and they openly challenge hackers to break their security in a constant attempt to provide the best security in communications. DTLS allows data and voice applications to communicate and at the same time, prevents tampering, forgery, and eavesdropping. It ensures that the communication channel is only between the intended parties and others can not intervene.

Transport layer Security was designed specifically for applications that are potentially unreliable or unsafe. These applications include the IoT, VoIP, VPN, Online gaming, and video conferencing specifically, but can also include other forms of communication.

DTLS works alongside other security protocols such as Secure Real-time Transport Protocols (SRTP) and for Web Real-time Communication technology (WebRTC). This covers web-based communications such as web browsing, email, live chat, instant messaging, and internet phone calls.

How does it work?

The D in DTLS stands for a Datagram. A datagram is a small packet of data that contains the starting point, the end point, and a small amount of data between the 2 points. It is packaged up to a maximum of 65,000 bytes and sent over the internet to the end point. It is a bit like sending a letter in snail mail. 

You are not physically connected to the receiver, you have put your home address on the letter, and you have put the end receivers address on the envelope, and within the envelope is the data that you want to transmit.  You do not know 100% that the letter will arrive at the destination, and sometimes letters can get lost in the mail, or take longer to arrive at the destination than you would like.

User Datagram Protocols are used for communications that require low latency levels and must be time sensitive. Examples of this include video calls, gaming, audio calls and VoIP communication. These UDP communications can arrive in the wrong order, can have connection problems and can be broken. The sender does not know if they have arrived and in what order they have arrived in. If different small packets are getting sent, some can go down different channels and through different connections, to reach the same source.

Just like a letter going from London to Edinburgh, sometimes it might go through Manchester, sometimes it might go through Leeds, sometimes it might take a break in Newcastle! It just depends on the available routes at the time.

The DTLS protocol is an extra layer of protection and privacy control for UDP communications and is simply the process by which you know that the data packets have arrived with the receiver and in what order they have arrived.

When you use Facebook messenger, the icon within the messaging app changes depending on if the message is sent, received, and read.  This is a clear demonstration of the DTLS Protocol. You can see which message arrives at what time and when it is opened.

Similarly with WhatsApp messages, you can clearly see the single tick (check mark), the double tick, and the blue ticks that show when a message has arrived and been opened.

If a voice message, or a video message was to arrive with the receiver in the wrong order, the message would be confusing and could convey a completely different sentiment than was intended.

What is TLS?

TLS uses transmission control protocols, and it cannot work with UDP alone, so it needs a helping hand to work with the user. TLS cannot manage data packet losses, or any reordering that may happen due to the different channels of communication transmitted. It must be ordered and completed in full.

If messages are broken, reordered, or lost, the TLS will fail and the connection will be broken, losing all the data. This would be bad within the telecommunication industry, as phone calls, video calls and data transmissions could go anywhere, or nowhere depending on the data connectivity. The purpose of TLS is to deliver end to end, reliable communication, which is not possible without datagrams being an integral part of the TLS process.

DTLS ensures that end to end encryption is complete, all packets arrive in the right order, to the correct destination and in a reliable manner.  DTLS has fixed the problems that TLS has with data packet loss and transmission errors, thereby improving speed and efficiency of this communication protocol.

Why is DTLS so good?

It is reliable. Historically, phone calls could have latency problems, you could start speaking and the other person would not hear you for a few seconds, so they might end the call, or speak over you. This common problem caused issues with long distance calls and communication. DTLS fixed this.

Call jitter means that the voice might sound robotic, or the video call could freeze, or jump around, again, a common problem with long range communication. DTLS ensures that the data packets arrive in the right order to the right person, in the fastest possible time, therefore online gaming is smooth, calls are clear, and streaming is consistent.

Real time communication and data transfer for clear communication becomes more reliable and secure, even where there are millions of users at the same time!

Is DTLS is safe

DTLS ensures that the data goes where it should go, and is received in the order that it should be received in. This means that the sender and receiver have a dedicated channel of communication that cannot be intercepted, overheard, or changed in transit. Having a direct, private connection between 2 people is essential in many businesses and situations. It is also nice to know that your conversations with your friends are not being overheard by someone else!

In the world of finance, security, healthcare, and politics, there are often very private conversations that must be crystal clear, must be received in the intended order and must be secure. Without strong DTLS controls in place, conversations could jump from receiver to receiver and people could accidentally overhear something that they should not hear!

Putting this concept into the family home, a mother and father often want their conversations to remain private from their children, and with DTLS in place, this happens, but without it, a conversation could jump from the father’s mobile phone to the son’s mobile phone within the same house, causing all kinds of family problems!

There is end-to-end connections and security meaning that the data packets and conversations are only received by the intended parties!

Conversation or data transmission also has touch points throughout the journey of the data ensuring that iut has been received by the different check points along the way.  This can be similar to roadblocks for long distance lorry drivers!

Imagine, if you will, a journey from Barcelona to Amsterdam. You need the lorry to arrive on time, and you need to know where it is and where the hold-ups are along that journey. Roadblocks on the Spanish border, in the middle of France, in Paris and Brussels would tell you the arrival time of the lorry, that it has arrived safe, and that it is still going in the right direction.  These roadblocks then send messages back to the starting point reassuring the cargo (data) is heading in the right direction and is still together and in the right order.

Where is it commonly used?

Where there is a need for applications to have minimal delays, it is important to use DTLS protocols. Those of us that remember how hard it used to be to talk to someone a long distance away will understand the latency problems of communication. Those of us that can remember the first online games will remember how bad it used to be compared to how fast and seamless it is now.

DTLS is compatible with as many existing datagram communication channels as possible, so that all communication devices and channels can be secured and fast. It also means that all different coding types, communication types and application designs are working from the same platform and that platform is safe, secure, and fast.

VoIP communication

VoIP communication is widely used by businesses around the world. Conferences and important meetings are carried out over video calls and VoIP communications. VoIP is affordable, and scalable it offers flexibility to communications and allows people all over the world to speak to each other. It is essential that it is clear, safe, and secure. DTLS allows people to stay in contact with each other even when there is low connection, or poor internet access.  It ensures that messages remain in order and going to the right person.

Online Gaming

This may not seem as important as communication, but it is a clear example of DTLS in action. If you make a command of your team, and it takes a long time to do it, or they move in the wrong direction, it is game over!

Streaming of Video and Audio

You want to watch a movie from start to finish without any breaks and latency problems. You want to listen to music online, listen to podcasts and audio books, you want to be able to hear instructions in the correct order and clearly. DTLS allows you to enjoy this. Where the data is sensitive, it is even more important to ensure that it goes where it should go and in the order that it should be in!

Mobile Communication.

Your mobile phone is always with you, it is connected to your business, your friends, family, and social life. It has become an essential tool in your life, so you need it to be reliable and safe. You do not want other people listening in on your calls, interfering with your games or sharing your video streaming sessions. Mobile communication is based on DTLS protocols.

ConxHub uses DTLS

We have 99.9% up-time, because our communication is based on DTLS protocols. You can be certain that your calls are going where they should go and are received in crystal clear audio all the time. Our calls are secure, safe, fast and without data packet loss due to the infrastructure of DTLS.  You, your family, friends, and your business can all communicate from anywhere safely and confidently using the ConxHub technology.

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