Understanding and dealing with security threats to your voip network

Understanding And Dealing With Security Threats To Your VoIP Network

Topics: business phone service, business voip, hosted pbx, hosted voip, voip pbx, telephone systems

VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol technologies continue to produce more and more cost-effective telecommunications solutions for small and medium business to large enterprises or conglomerates. Previous estimates by US technology research firms placed the number of IP phones sold in 2006 at 9.9 million to a staggering 45.8 million in 2010.

However, these surveys also indicate that more than 40 percent of businesses that have set-up or are planning to set-up a VoIP system for their business are neglecting one very important element that should be included in their network - security. The survey also indicates that the managers of these establishments have little or no knowledge of security threats to their VoIP networks.

Many have been attracted by the cost-effective allure of VoIP networks and how the technology can impact their bottom line significantly. However, failure to address the single most threatening drawback to VoIP networks can cause serious implications to their business in the long run. As such, it would be wise for network managers and business owners to learn whatever they can about these security threats and address them all accordingly.

Security Threats - They Are Real in VoIP Networks

A VoIP communications network is basically a data-based system and just like any data network in existence, particularly LAN (local area networks) and WAN (wide area networks), they are also prone to internal and external security threats. The following are some of the most real and potentially damaging threats to VoIP networks that network managers and business owners should be aware of.

Denial of Service Attacks - also called DoS attacks, this security threat can cripple your company’s VoIP phone lines by forcing disconnection of calls and creating prolonged busy signals

VoIP Eavesdropping - hackers can sniff and snoop on any ongoing VoIP calls in your network from any point between your system and your contacts. Security agencies and the FBI themselves can also do their VoIP snooping into your network as easily as any of these hackers. Such intrusions can also lead to more serious attacks on your system such as DoS Attacks.

Vishing by VoIP - this is an new take on an old scam, phishing, with voice added. The intentions are still the same - internet criminals trying to gain access to your personal and financial database and other information for the purpose of gaining financial returns through deceitful means. This is perpetrated in conjunction with another strategy named Caller ID Spoofing, making it difficult to identify and track these perpetrators.

Attacks against VoIP Service Providers - perpetrators use spoof caller IDs and illegal accounts to attack service providers with flooding, fuzzing and spoofing attacks on their systems. Examples of such attacks include the use of multiple channels to generate more than 10,000 messages per second to flood the VoIP network with traffic that is equivalent to 10 million users.

How to Protect Your VoIP Networks from Security Threats

Although there are still no 100% secure VoIP system implementations with current technologies, businesses can still implement several basic security precautions that can protect them against common attacks and threats to their networks. The following are some of these steps:

Install encryption hardware that places a layer of protection to your voice and data traffic . This layer of protection is necessary should hackers managed to gain unauthorized access to your network.

Separate voice and data networks by allocating them individual VLANs or Virtual Local Area Networks, and place them behind separate firewalls. In case of attacks, each VLAN is isolated so that damage can be minimal and spread to other servers is prevented.

Establish a secured gateway for your system, which will limit access to the network and the system using proper authentication procedures which will keep hackers at bay. SPI or Stateful Package Inspection firewalls and NAT or Network Address Translation tools are used to provide protection to these gateways.

Increase your vigilance in protecting your network from suspicious activities and potential attacks by maintaining and updating your operating systems and your VoIP applications. Security patches are important system updates that should not be disregarded.

Softphones are more vulnerable to malware attacks so should not be used in your networks as much as possible. Use only pre-approved devices through authenticated users to prevent access by unauthorized entities.

Andrew is a VoIP and business software expert.


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