VoIP has come a long way from its humble beginnings and established itself as a trusted component of mainstream communication. An ever-increasing number of individuals and businesses rely on this technology for its simplicity, versatility, flexibility, and affordability. However, as the technology evolves, so do the questions surrounding the risks of VoIP.
Risks of VoIP
The ability to be connected has not only skyrocketed our productivity but also subjected us to increased vulnerabilities. Everyone from small businesses to large, multi-billion dollar companies like Yahoo, Target, and JP Morgan Chase have shown that everyone is susceptible to attacks on their infrastructure. While security breaches can happen to anyone, knowing how to handle them is key to having a successful modern business.
As with all security risks, there are ways to minimize the impact and protect yourself from attack. We will tackle some of the biggest security issues involved in using VoIP technology and find out what you can do to protect your business from attack.
Denial of Service (DOS)
What it is: Denial of Service is one of the most common concerns for all business networks. The end goal of any DoS attack is to overwhelm a system with so many requests that it is eventually forced to shut down. This is most often seen on media streaming sites. An overwhelming demand can cause the system to slow down or stop entirely. Similarly, In a VoIP system, hackers use an automatic phone dialer that keeps rapidly calling and hanging up. This keeps your line too busy to accept other calls, essentially clogging your business phone lines.
How to Prevent it: There are many new security protocols available that can help protect your communication infrastructure against attackers. One example is using Session Border Controllers (SBC) that act as a kind of VoIP firewall. SBC’s are able to protect your network by building a secure connection between you and your service provider while giving you more control over the VoIP calls and voice traffic your business handles.
What it is: Eavesdropping is a classic technique made modern. Often used for identity theft, eavesdropping on VoIP calls usually involves tapping into an unencrypted call while it’s being transmitted over your internet or data network. Without encryption, cybercriminals can more easily intercept sensitive customer information such as names, birthdates, banking information, and passwords.
How to Prevent it: These days it’s easier than ever to set up data and voice encryption on your VoIP systems. Here are a few simple ways:
- 1. Transport Layer Security (TLS): This secures incoming and outgoing traffic between callers to prevent eavesdropping.
- 2. Secure Real-Time Transport Protocol (SRTP): This encrypts data packets transmitted during calls so that eavesdroppers cannot decipher them.
- 3. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs): VPN’s provide a secure, encrypted tunnel that allows you to transmit and receive data safely.
Malware (Viruses, Worms, Trojans, and Bots)
What it is: Viruses and other malware have been around for about as long as computers have existed. Over the years, attackers have found ever-more creative ways to exploit vulnerabilities and spread malware that can damage software, access information, and steal data. Because VoIP relies on a web connection, it is also susceptible to malware threats.
How to Prevent it: Your first line of defense when it comes to malware is safety training. Ask your VoiP provider if they include safety training as part of their onboarding service. Even if they don’t, take the time to educate your employees on things like to never opening links or attachments that look suspicious or come through unknown senders. Inform them about the security risks of using free wi-fi hotspots with unsecured networks. Little things go a long way in lowering the risk of security breaches and fending off would-be attackers.
Another important measure to combat these threats is having firewalls. While usually simple to put in place, they are also one of the most effective security measures that you can take to ensure the safety of your VoIP software. Firewalls act as a gatekeeper that filters information as it comes from the internet and is filtered into your voice network. If a firewall flags a packet as “suspicious” it is simply not allowed into your network.
Reducing Unknown Risk
While Denial of Service attacks, malware, and eavesdropping may be the most common risks surrounding VoIP technology, there are many other attacks that systems are vulnerable to. While you can’t always protect yourself against every single threat, there are a lot of precautions that can help keep you safe.
Secure Your Passwords
Secure passwords are the single most neglected area when it comes to VoIP security. You can invest in the best high-end encryption and gateway security tools, but it won’t matter much if all the smartphones, tablets, and computers accessing your network are not secured with a strong password.
VoIP goes through online networks rather than individual, physical phone lines. This means access to one employee’s credentials can threaten your entire work environment. A hacker can quickly install malware on devices that aren’t protected, and instantly access phone conversations and other customer data through the employee’s computer.
The most important step when it comes to protecting yourself from risks and security breaches is to be educated and informed. And that goes for everyone in the company.
Train your staff on data storage, encryption and information organization. This is especially vital for those employees who handle sensitive data regularly.
Lastly, always be prepared for the worst. No matter how safe we are while using the internet, sometimes bad things can happen. Have a contingency plan in place, and educate employees on how to handle situations. The last thing you want is someone accidentally causing more damage when something goes wrong.
Monitor for unusual activity
Learning what is normal and abnormal in your network takes time and skill. Having monitors in place is vital to preventing attacks. Thankfully, there are many services that can detect fraudulent activity, flag them and even halt them completely.
In addition to automated protection, growing companies should strongly consider investing in an IT manager to help monitor network activity. Not only will this help point out irregularities like strange calls, that may be missed by automation, but it can also help stave off larger problems that can affect your business in the long run.
Having the ability to connect our business tools to the web is an amazing feat of modernization. We’re more efficient than ever, and businesses can scale while delivering incredible services to customers at a lower cost. And while VoIP security threats remain a valid concern for any manager or business owner the most important thing is to be proactive. Being prepared through ample training, vigilant monitoring and robust defenses can keep you safe, and put your mind at ease.