VoIP is the consensus future of computer telephony integration (CTI). And with cybersecurity being a top concern, it’s a good idea to learn a little about VoIP security risks.
A VoIP system opens up a wealth of possibilities for advanced phone system features and VoIP integrations. VoIP phone systems are gaining in popularity because they’re versatile, flexible, and more reliable than ever before. That’s not all. VoIP technology is also efficient and cost-effective, making it even more attractive.
For all intents and purposes, VoIP has a pretty good reputation for being secure technology. That said, any time you’re using electronics or the internet, it’s prudent to understand the security risks you might be exposing your business to and take the appropriate precautions.
You don’t have to be an IT expert to understand VoIP security risks, but you should have a basic understanding of the issues that could make your business vulnerable to security problems. Best practices for VoIP security risks involve your infrastructure, software, and your people.
What Is a VoIP Security Risk?
For the sake of clarity, VoIP stands for voice over internet protocol. Essentially, a VoIP phone system is a way to transmit voice messages over the internet. Anytime you’re using the internet, there are some inherent risks to consider. Businesses the world over are increasingly vulnerable to cyber threats because of their dependency on computers, software programs, computer networks, and social media.
So, what does VoIP security risk really mean? Specifically, VoIP security risk is the probability of loss or exposure from a cyberattack or data breach to your VoIP phone system.
Risk management is a vital part of every business. A good place to start with addressing the inherent risks in your VoIP phone system (and other business systems) is by reviewing your risk management plan and identifying the place where VoIP security risk fits into it.
CyberObserver highlights some of the recent statistics around cybersecurity:
Gartner reports that worldwide spending on cybersecurity spending will reach $133.7 billion in 2022
About 68% of businesses are concerned about cybersecurity risks
4.1 billion records exposed in the first half of 2019 (RiskBased)
71% of breaches have a financial motivation (Verizon)
25% of breaches are the result of espionage (Verizon)
52% of the breaches were hacking, 28% were from malware, and around 32% involved phishing or social engineering (Verizon)
As a business owner, you should have a healthy concern over VoIP security. The lack of security can have a negative impact on your customer relationships and harm your brand if it were to cause a disruption in your services. By learning more about VoIP security issues and understanding the solutions, you can set up a good defense system to ward against them.
How to Understand the Different Types of VoIP Risks
There will be security risks in any phone system you choose. The key to mitigating these risks is understanding the different types of risks and how they can impact your business.
Vishing (the voice version of phishing)
Vishing is a fraudulent scheme where someone uses fake credentials to trick call receivers into giving up sensitive data. Usually, cybercriminals will pretend to be a reputable business, often one that’s in the financial services industry such as a bank or credit card company. These types of attacks can be challenging to mitigate because they target customers in your VoIP call center rather than the VoIP system.
Denial of Service (DoS)
In this type of breach, a hacker initiates a barrage of SIP call-signaling messages. As a result, the traffic takes up available bandwidth, slowing down the system, or stopping it altogether. A DOS attack can lead to dropped calls or prevent callings from coming in or going out. There’s also a chance that hackers could gain control of system administrative tools remotely which would allow them to access sensitive data.
One of the most common threats with VoIP systems is eavesdropping. Cybercriminals can intercept audio streams and listen in on conversations and use the information to commit identity theft.
This type of risk leads to excessive charges on the business’s phone system account. Hackers can break into the service provider’s system and add more credit to it, change plans, or rack up calls. Phreaking also encompasses a breach where hackers record conversations where they can steal voice-sensitive passwords to access financial records or other sensitive information.
Protecting Your VoIP Systems from Risks
To protect your VoIP system, you need to protect all parts of your VoIP infrastructure including:
Session Border Controllers (SBC) act as a firewall for your VoIP system to protect against DoS threats. They protect your system by building a secure connection between you and your service provider, giving you more control over VoIP calls and voice traffic.
The key to protecting against phreaking is to remotely and physically secure your endpoints.
That’s all pretty technical stuff, but don’t overlook some easy ways to protect your VoIP system, like educating your employees about cybersecurity risks. Employee training is the way to keep malware at bay. Employees need to be able to recognize suspicious links, attachments, and senders. Remind remote and distributed teams about the risks of using free Wi-Fi hotspots with unsecured networks.
Understanding VoIP Customer Data Encryption
Voice technology brings voice and data together in a marriage that brings all your business solutions into a single source for your call agents. End-to-end encryption with every endpoint makes these solutions work together in ways that are comprehensive and reliable.
To prevent problems with eavesdropping, these are the ways to set up data and voice encryption:
Setting up transport layer security (TLS) to secure incoming and outgoing traffic between callers.
Using secure real-time transport protocol (SRTP) to encrypt data packets transmitted during calls which makes it impossible for eavesdroppers to decipher them.
Virtual private networks (VPN) offer a secure encrypted tunnel where you can transmit and receive data safely.
Malware & VoIP Security
Malware became a buzz word for malicious software. This type of cyberattack includes trojans viruses, ransomware, spyware, worms, and other nasty bugs that can harm your data and devices. Worm-type software squirms its way into other devices on the network, locking up the whole system. Criminals are usually after money and they generally ask for a ransom before they’ll free up your system.
Malware attacks in various ways and there is no shortage of hackers infecting systems. Cybercriminals use malware to steal passwords, delete files, and tie up your computers so they won’t function. While malware attacks devices, it can also attack your VoIP system. Malware attacks usually originate through an email that an employee accidentally opens on their laptop or pc. This type of security threat can harm your VoIP system and unified communications platform.
The 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report by Verizon showed that 34% involved internal actors. How does that work? RSConnect describes an example where a “pseudo employee” conducted a scam where he called his helpdesk from one of their company numbers. He asked the technician for help because he claimed he couldn’t open a website. The company helped the fraudster open the website and the criminal proceeded to download malware onto the helpdesk computers.
As a word of caution, RSConnect notes that a fraudster obviously wouldn’t open a malware-infected email. A simple step that you can take in monitoring your system is to check on lone employees that avoid opening emails. Any anomaly could be a red flag for a security risk.
Best Practices to Prevent VoIP Security Risks
There are no 100% foolproof ways to prevent VoIP security risks. However, by following best practices, you can set yourself up as well as possible to keep the hackers out.
10 best practices for preventing VoIP security risks:
Review your security practices any time you make changes or additions to your system.
Be on high alert for new trends in security risks that make your system vulnerable.
Use secure passwords for computers, mobile phones, tablets, and any other devices that are connected to your network.
Provide ongoing trainings for your employees regarding the types of risks and your protocols to prevent them. This is especially important if your company regularly handles sensitive information.
Monitor your system for unusual activity. Anything that looks unusual or abnormal could be a threat. Act on anything that looks like a red flag before anything gets out of control.
Designate someone to be accountable for monitoring your system on a regular basis, perhaps someone who works in IT.
Set up account authentication. Each computer has a unique IP address that identifies which device is requesting access to the network. You can restrict access to the agents in your call center. If you’re using remote or distributed teams, you can create IP blacklists where you can set up parameters to block IP addresses that have failed password attempts and blocks users after a certain number of failed attempts.
Prepare for the worst-case scenario. Even when you take all the security measures possible, an unprecedented crisis can happen. Establish an emergency plan and train your employees on how to handle things if your system goes down. Taking the right steps during a crisis can prevent an even worse scenario.
If you’re having issues, contact your VoIP service provider immediately. They can usually handle the bulk of security problems without you having to take additional steps to get things under control.
10. Choose a good VoIP provider that has an excellent reputation for reliability and security.
Aircall and VoIP Security
Aircall understands the importance of VoIP security. That’s why we encrypt all data and store it in industry-leading modern data centers and monitor them 24/7. We have independent teams of professionals regularly conducting penetration tests to bolster security.
Aircall set up the right safeguards to protect customer data from being accessed or attacked by unauthorized people. We do not leave anything to chance. Aircall follows the recommendations of various information security frameworks including ISO 27001/27002, SOC 2, and PCI/DSS. The infrastructure is redundant, ensuring customer data remains safe and that disaster recovery is efficient. Phone calls made with SIP protocol can also be encrypted by TLS. Aircall never stores passwords or customer credit card information for internal purposes.
You owe it to your customers to monitor your VoIP system by protecting data. Overall, Aircall is an industry leader because it hits every note of VoIP security best practices in addition to offering a robust set of cloud-based phone system features and public API.
Published on February 22, 2023.