Voice over Internet Protocol is undoubtedly the future of business communication. While there may have been doubts about the reliability of calls forwarded over the Internet in the past, they are now, for the most part, a thing of the past.
Today, VoIP platforms can easily compete with and even surpass traditional landline telephones, thanks to the versatility and flexibility of the former. In addition, these systems can be set up in a matter of minutes, and installation costs are much lower than the setup and maintenance of typical telephone infrastructures. With so many advantages, it should come as no surprise that 61% of companies have already switched from landline calls to VoIP.
However, using Voice over Internet Protocol for business purposes also carries some serious risks, mainly related to security vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, thanks to the aforementioned popularity of calls made over the Internet, VoIP is also a prime target for a number of scammers and cybercriminals.
If you are currently investigating VoIP options or have just installed such a system, it is of utmost importance that you are aware of the main dangers lurking on the Internet and how you can prevent them from harming your business. In this article, we’ll go over the 5 most common VoIP security risks and how you can protect your network from them. But first, let’s talk about the advantages of using a VoIP system.
Why should you move your business communication to VoIP?
The ongoing pandemic (and not just this factor) has made companies of all sizes and in a variety of industries realize one thing: that old landlines and local calling platforms are actually quite limited. Installing an office-wide landline is expensive, complicated and time-consuming. Upgrading an existing local platform is nearly impossible. Not to mention that a landline is tied to the building in which it is installed, so working remotely with one is completely out of the question.
As all companies need flexibility these days, many of them have started looking for alternatives to regular phones that are just as reliable as landlines, but much more flexible and easier to maintain. And VoIP happens to not only meet, but even exceed most companies’ expectations. Besides the fact that there is basically no difference in call quality (in fact, VoIP call quality is often even better than landlines thanks to HD Voice features), VoIP platforms also have several additional advantages, such as:
Much lower installation and maintenance costs: to start using VoIP right away, companies only need to purchase a subscription to the platform. No IT technician or additional hardware is required, and maintenance of the platform is the responsibility of the provider.
Ease of remote working: VoIP allows businesses to make calls from anywhere and on any device they want, as long as it has Internet access.
Greater scalability: Compared to standard on-premise tools, which are rather inflexible, companies can modify VoIP platforms as much as they need to. For example, they can quickly add new agents to the platform to handle vacation season call peaks and then remove those agents from the system when the peak period is over.
Variety of useful features within the platform: VoIP systems come with a long list of features, such as IVR menus and automatic call recording, that are either not available in on-premise software or are very expensive to add. If you need to, you can even ask your provider to add custom features to your VoIP platform.
The most common VoIP security risks
As with anything Internet-related, cybercriminals and fraudsters can abuse VoIP platforms to harm your business. By hacking into your phone system, criminals can listen in on every call you make, rack up phone bills or steal sensitive information related to both your business and your customers. And the criminals often don’t stop there. They can use the data obtained to impersonate your company or blackmail you, demanding money in exchange for not disclosing sensitive information. What are the most commonly observed security issues related to VoIP?
Phishing (sometimes also called Vishing, such as VoIP phishing) attempts have plagued businesses around the world in recent years – as of 2021, Google has recorded more than 2 million phishing sites.
Typically,scammers call numbers that look close to those of legitimate organizations (government agencies, tax departments or banks, etc.) and leave a message about “suspicious activity” occurring on the recipient’s account. The victim is then directed to another call asking them to “verify their identity”, i.e. to share sensitive company information such as their employer or bank account details.
Seventy percent of organizations surveyed by Corero said they experience between 20 and 50 DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks per month. And while most of these are unsuccessful, the main problem is that with powerful machines, specialized tools and much better bandwidth than before, cybercriminals can now launch much faster and cheaper DDoS attacks. This also means that not only “big players” (such as banks, corporations or social media platforms) are at risk of being attacked, but companies of all sizes and sectors are at risk.
A DDoS attack occurs when criminals overwhelm a server with data and use its entire bandwidth. In doing so, hackers can make a machine or network unavailable to its users, disrupting service temporarily or indefinitely. In the case of VoIP, that means that calls cannot be made or received. But that’s not all: in the worst case, server administration controls can be taken over by the attacker.
Through call manipulation, hackers try to interrupt the calls you are making at a certain time. They can send a large amount of data over the same path you are using for the call, making the quality unstable. Or they may delay the delivery of data packets between callers, making the entire communication unintelligible or producing long periods of silence.
Malware and Viruses
Malware, Trojans and viruses remain one of the biggest threats to the security of network systems. These malicious programs are created specifically to give criminals access to the entire system, consume network bandwidth or severely diminish the quality of the Internet signal.
And while they can do a lot of damage on their own, many of these malicious programs can create backdoors in the system, making it easier for hackers to listen in on your calls or steal important information.
The name (or rather, the acronym) may sound a bit icky, but it refers to a serious threat to any business. Through a “Voice over Misconfigured Internet Telephones” tool, cybercriminals can take voice packets and sensitive information directly from calls. Not only that, but the attacker can also access other useful information, such as the origin of the call, which he can then use to eavesdrop on all calls you make.
SPIT is a variant of voice spam that works by sending voice messages or so-called “robocalls” several times a week. And with the tools available to spammers, it costs them nothing to send thousands of messages to different IP addresses at once or to impersonate authentic, local phone numbers when they actually come from different countries.
Answering such a call or listening to the voice message may redirect the recipient to a very expensive phone number in another country, or the messages may also carry viruses or spyware.
So is VoIP safe to use?
Reading about all those VoIP security risks and dangers can make you anxious about using Internet calling in your business. But the good news is that you can make your calls and data safe by learning some basic cybersecurity methods.
– Data encryption is one of the most effective ways to ensure that your sensitive information is protected from hackers. And even if data or messages are intercepted, with strong encryption they will be useless to hackers.
– Create strong and varied passwords for all the different devices on your VoIP platform. Periodically check your network for security vulnerabilities. Regularly update all the tools you use.
– Train your employees on how to react in case of a phishing attempt. VoIP system providers also strive to ensure that the data stored and transmitted over their platforms are safe from any hacking attempt. They also have several security measures built into their platforms and regularly test them for any vulnerabilities.
– To ensure that your call records, business information and any other data are safe with us, at Cloudtalk we use a combination of security tokens and full 256-bit encryption with a Perfect Forward Secrecy system. All passwords used on the platform are also encrypted using a one-way algorithm. As for your calls, those made via SIP and WebRTC protocols are automatically encrypted.
– Neither passwords nor credit card data are stored internally: the latter are provided directly to the payment processing company, while the former are stored by Amazon AWS and Google Cloud Platform in 9 data centers distributed around the world. This approach ensures that your data is safe with us.
When using any Internet-connected tool, you have to be aware of potential security risks, and VoIP is no different. The more often you plan to use it in your company, the more you need to reinforce the vulnerabilities of Voice over Internet Protocol calls. But fortunately, by taking a few basic steps, you can prevent most VoIP security risks from harming your business and keep your data safe and sound. Keep your tools regularly updated, use strong passwords and never share sensitive information over an unsecured network.
CloudTalk places great emphasis on providing the highest standard of security for our platform, so you can be confident when using it that your data is protected from all threats and simply enjoy the benefits associated with Voice over Internet Protocol calls.