Secure connectivity: The answer to physical network security

June 17, 2020
Secure connectors from Optical Fiber Packaging (OFP) cover the most common connector types: LC, SC, and RJ45. The product helps control any unauthorized physical network changes and creates demarcations for network administrators.
By MISHA STOUKLOV, OFP -- In the modern world we are connected like never before as we send and receive enormous amounts of data. Yet, we often give little thought to the connectivity of our devices, as we consistently expect uninterrupted service and complete privacy. What do we do when this connection is interrupted? What if, for example, our entire office’s internet goes out, or if our network is hacked? After an initial moment of panic, frustration, and stress we call IT to sort it out. After all, we rarely think about our problems, or give credit to “what if” scenarios, until they finally happen.

We wrongly believe that long passwords, two-factor authentication, antivirus, a VPN, and more will do the trick, but that is only one piece of the pie. We forget the physical aspect of data security: all the cabling, patch panels, and server rooms. What if an employee accidentally removes the wrong cable, downing a part of the network, or a hacker physically connects into a server room and begins stealing valuable company secrets? The answer in preventing these scenarios lies in a physically secure network. Locked doors or server rooms are only one part of the solution. The other part, of course, is the cabling itself.

OFP's patented solution: The Secure connector

Optical Fiber Packaging (OFP) has developed a globally patented solution to specifically help improve any network’s physical security: the Secure connector. The OFP Secure connectors cover the most common connector types: LC, SC, and RJ45. The connectors use a proprietary locking mechanism to prevent unauthorized access or changes to ports. Once a connector or port-blocker is inserted, it can only be removed with a matching color-coded key. Aside from improving security, the product helps control any network changes and creates demarcations for network administrators.

The entire product line is extremely easy to use and requires no formal training. No changes are required to a facility's patch-panels or port hardware. In a matter of minutes, tamper-proof cabling can be delivered by simply retro-fitting OFP’s secure patch cords to pre-existing network ports.

Compared to using standard connectivity solutions, OFP’s Secure connectors have the following advantages:

  • When the connectors are pushed into a port, they can only be unplugged with a key tool.
  • Each color-coded connector has a custom design, meaning it has a physically unique mechanical key-way. For example, only a “blue” key can remove a “blue” connector.
  • Each connector type has an Administration Extraction Key tool, which will undo all keyway colors.
  • For all connector types, there are port blockers, or “dummy plugs,” which can be used to ensure all empty ports in a network cannot be accessed without proper authority.  
  • The LC fiber optic connector series features special dust-caps that have to be put on the connector when it is unplugged, hence ensuring proper the cleanliness discipline of capping an unplugged cable end.
  • All connectors fully meet IEC & TIA connector interface standards and deliver excellent, uninterrupted performance.
  • For hard to reach LC cables, a clip-on extraction tool is available to help access and remove connectors deep in high density patch panels without disturbing adjacent ports.

Company background: Who is OFP and how did they design the Secure connector?

Optical Fiber Packaging Ltd. was founded in 2016. The start-up team had previously founded Advanced Fiber Products (AFP), which was formed in 2007 from a sale of Stratos International, and sold to TE Connectivity in 2016.

OFP is a carve-out from a part of AFP. The entrepreneurs behind the company have a rich fiber-optic heritage extending back to the 1980s. The team started Europe’s first independent, mass-production fiber harness facility with customers such as JDSU, Nortel, British Telecom, Deutsch Telecom, Telefonica, BAE, Marconi, and Cable Wireless.

The idea of the secure connector was born during the company's AFP era as a development for clients servicing the colocation data center market and for use in tactical communications systems for the US Marine Corps. Since then, the product has been used extensively in datacom/enterprise applications, and in military, federal government, FTTX, and healthcare networks.

In order to expand market presence with the secure connector products, OFP has successfully partnered with two of the leading connector companies: Leviton Corporation and Senko Limited. These relationships have helped OFP penetrate multiple markets worldwide.

Case studies of OFP’s Secure connectors: SC, LC, and RJ45 versions

The Secure SC connector was OFP’s most recent design iteration. The connectors, like their sister products, mate to entirely standard SC ports and provide a highly robust, secure tamper-proof connection.

The Secure SC was designed with four key variations and was specifically targeted for the Fiber to the Home (FTTX) market, where typically four “service providers” could be given access to a customer’s connection node. As such, OFP’s Secure SC connector is ideal for connection to a customer wall box and provides an excellent, readily identifiable physical layer of demarcation between operators.  

Unless the engineer has the correct key tool, they are unable to unplug a port protector from another operator’s cabling. Similarly, the connectors provide strong protection against tampering by the inquisitive end user. Physical demarcation and port protection save “truck rolls” due to accidental disconnection and unauthorized access to ports on live equipment. OFP’s Secure SC has been formally qualified and approved for FTTX deployment by several major European operators.

OFP’s Secure LC connectors were the first product to be developed, and have enjoyed success in both civil (datacom/enterprise) and military applications. As mentioned, the USMC have used the LC product extensively in tactical communications network applications.

The principle benefit for the Marines has been the ability to physically separately and lock down their secure communications network (SIPRNET) separately from their non-secure networks (NIPRNET).

Due to the physical density of cabling and patch panel configurations in their mobile communications systems, multiple network types have to be located in very close proximity to each-other in racks and at signal entry panels. Accidental cross connects, disconnects and malicious intrusions into the network cannot be tolerated at any cost. Software protection is one layer of security, but physical cabling securing has also been imperative for them.

OFP’s Secure LC cabling has solved the many worries about accidental disconnect or malicious intrusion. The Marines continue to use the Secure LC connector in preconfigured network cabins deployed on active service to camps in the Middle East, as well as more recently in US-located Marine base networks.

OFP's Secure RJ-45 connector, albeit a copper connector, uses the same physical locking principles as the Secure LC and many of the patented attributes are common.

The connectors are typically supplied as pre-configured, prescribed-length patch cords, similar to the standard copper products, and are able to plug into virtually any conventional network port. They can be easily retrofitted to switch ports and patch fields to upgrade the physical security of any facility or data-center.

One of the earliest adopters of Secure RJ products was the US federal organization, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Aside from securing and providing demarcation for a number of different and critical networks that were co-located, the connectors were used extensively in the base of VoIP telephones.

The product provided excellent protection against office staff unplugging and moving IP phones around their buildings without authorization and creating substantial cost and distraction for the VA’s IT department. Similarly, all empty, open, and unprotected network ports, be they wall outlets, desk outlets, or conference room outlets could be ‘blocked’ with Secure RJ port blockers. This gave the VA peace of mind by preventing random access to their network with a phone or other unauthorized equipment.

If you would like to learn more about OFP or its secure connectors, download some spec sheets, or just chat about network security, visit or email [email protected]. Our team is here to help you secure your networks and prevent any unnecessary stress or damage to your networks. Let’s build a secure future, together.

MISHA STOUKLOV is Sales Manager – Secure Connectivity for OFP.

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