VoIP technology is growing at a rate virtually unrivaled in the business world, disrupting an industry that has long remained the same with traditional structures being in place for several decades. With the benefits on offer from a VoIP phone system it is no real surprise that the progress has been shift. As well as being cost effective, VoIP solutions offer a number of advantages that previously would have been reserved for only large, multi national enterprises.
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How Secure is VoIP?
It has only been recently that VoIP security has been a consideration for businesses because the features of the technology have often overshadowed everything else. Security hasn’t been a number one priority because the majority of VoIP traffic was confined to wide area and local enterprise networks which were relatively secure and safeguarded from the public internet.
As VoIP phones for business usage is becoming increasingly common, users are finding that they are open to exactly the same security risks which are apparent on traditional data networks, subsequently creating a variety of new security risks. The main security risks associated with using this technology relates to voice networks which are IP based. Each IP protocol used to send voice traffic will include flaws to some degree.
VoIP Security Risks
The internet can be a particularly vulnerable place for VoIP networks for a variety of reasons; perhaps the most serious risk is that if an attack was to occur, it cannot be traced.
The majority of VoIP traffic is sent over the internet and it is not encrypted so anyone with access to the network can listen in to telephone calls and this is one of the most serious threats in the VoIP environment. Interception of audio calls and signaling messages which can be decoded can allow the person intercepting the phone call to listen in to phone calls. This security breach is just one of many.
Hackers are able to impersonate a user, assume the identity of a caller and obtain sensitive and confidential business or client information.
A middle man could intercept a VoIP call so that a customer ends up speaking with the impersonator rather than an actual business. This leaves personal information, credit card details open to theft from the interceptor. The customer has no idea and believes that they have spoken to an actual company.
A more technical attack could involve sending a large volume of inauthentic packets to a VoIP server which will cause an overload and takes the service offline for genuine customers or businesses.
Once a hacker has gained access to a VoIP system they can do anything on the network, from making and receiving calls through to transferring calls before they ring, recording calls and more which places many businesses at risk of data loss. Any data breach can result in significant and lasting implications for the business from loss of customers to lack of trust.
How to Secure Your VoIP Phone System
Many businesses have questioned the security of VoIP phones in the past and the above outlines just a few of the much vulnerability in a VoIP system. Businesses thinking of using the software should therefore ensure that their networks are adequately secured before using them as the preferred method of communication. When working with the service provider, ensure that they are taking security seriously. Ensure that their selection of services such as user authentication, configuration of VLAN, encryption and signaling methods have all been addressed. When configuring plans and user profiles you can control network access by obtaining a device certificate or using a username and password. VoIP phones can also be managed to restrict types of phone calls which are allowed on the network by device, user and other elements to add an extra layer of security.
In terms of the system itself, you can also add a number of components to protect your systems including the creation of a firewall and/or intrusion prevention system (IPS). The firewall and the IPS will work in partnership to carefully monitor, identify and check both unauthorized and authorized traffic through the VoIP network or any unusual activity. A number of other ways to secure your network are:
- Voice servers can be locked for administrative purposes. Ensure that your system administration is centrally managed and implement domain restrictions as well as multi factor authentication to grant administrative level system access.
- Updates should be installed regularly. This is particularly important for firmware. Businesses should also check that the firmware doesn’t reset security settings to default after updates are complete.
- Encryption should be applied to voice traffic, signaling and packets with secure protocols such as SRTP
- Virtual Private Networks can also be used for connections on remote devices
- When users are allowed to use the VoIP system they should be aware of strict security policies and procedures. Before using the system, employees should be provided with training on security and carrying out VoIP calls correctly.
- Strong passwords should be used to access features such as voicemail and ensure that they are changed periodically.
- Sensitive voicemail messages should be deleted after they are no longer required.
Any suspicious activity should also be reported immediately to the IT team so that it can be investigated and if a security vulnerability is discovered it can be addressed immediately.
VoIP phones and their corresponding networks are a great way for businesses to communicate. Provided that they are set up and managed correctly with an adequate amount of security, there is no reason why any business shouldn’t take advantage of the many features and benefits of this internet based voice calling technology, as long as the firstly ensure the correct security measures are taken.
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