How to address VoIP security challenges

Businesses are increasingly adopting VoIP applications for their internal communication systems and to connect with customers. While the flexibility and low costs of these applications are evident, using them without additional security measures can be detrimental and can lead to data theft for enterprises.

As technology takes over an increasing number of functions, security has also become a critical concern for businesses of all sizes. IT teams need to stay alert on identifying and quickly resolving vulnerabilities in any system.

Communication systems based on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) are among the chief technology resources that cause businesses to worry about this aspect. When they initially emerged on the business landscape, VoIP phones did not bring such security issues. Organisations were more apprehensive about their reliability, voice quality and overall utility.

Now, when VoIP is a component of mainstream communication technology, security has become a prime decisive factor for its adoption. Since VoIP is based on the same infrastructure that traditional IP data network uses, it is subject to the security vulnerabilities in the data network.

VoIP also has some of its own security risks, which may be categorised into:

Viruses and Malware – These can hijack the system through VoIP handsets and manipulate them to send spam and malicious data to other users. Business data including credit card information can also be stolen and destroyed due to viruses.

Denial of Service Attacks (DoS) – DoS attacks are materialised by hackers who flood a network server and consume all bandwidth to prevent outgoing and incoming VoIP calls. Cybercriminals may also plot such attacks to take over the business servers remotely and steal sensitive data.

Call Hijacks – In call hijacking, cybercriminals send noise packets to VoIP calls which harm their quality, delay voice signals and at times cause the call to drop altogether. They can also intercept VoIP calls by modifying the encryption keys for calls’ digital signatures. With this, the VoIP servers get deceived into believing that a call is still on, and meanwhile, the hacker can critically damage the network.

How to deal with these vulnerabilities? The risks mentioned above can be significantly reduced when you have a trusted VoIP service provider and maintain your network in hosted VoIP environment.

Here are some of the safety measures that your service provider can implement to keep your VoIP systems secure:

Virtual Private Networks (VPN) – When you have a VPN, your business communication and transactions over the Internet are more secure than in proxy networks. The same level of protection can be provided to the VoIP systems, and they are therefore safeguarded against hackers.

Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) – A step ahead of public VPNs, the MPLS networks are private and segregate voice traffic from other traffic. They can also assign a higher bandwidth to VoIP and enhance the quality of calls. This feature is particularly suitable for organisations that need to keep their telephonic communications secure while also maintaining high quality.

Encryption – Your network service provider can encrypt your VoIP setup to give it additional security. While encryption does not always protect users against more sophisticated cyber attacks, it can make the business data useless to any unauthorised user who tries to steal it.

Antivirus Software – The softphones used for VoIP calls are susceptible to damages caused by malware and viruses. However, when you have a hosted VoIP vendor, your service package will also comprise robust antivirus software to secure the equipment.

Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) – This is a critical security aspect employed by some VoIP service providers to detect and block malicious and unauthorised data from penetrating the VoIP network. DPI can also be used to enhance network performance and avert peer-to-peer abuse that can be caused by VoIP calls fraud.

Patches and Updates – It is not unusual for businesses to overlook the fact that VoIP phones need the same level of security upgrades, patches and upkeep that other software and apps require in their IT environments. Leading service providers go that extra mile to keep your VoIP systems updated with new patches and ensure that there are no apparent vulnerabilities.

Monitoring – VoIP networks need to be monitored continuously so that any problems can be identified and resolved in real time. Hosted VoIP service providers have advanced tools and apps to monitor networks and take appropriate measures to safeguard them.

As security continues to be a primary concern for enterprises, protecting the VoIP network from hackers and cybercriminals must be a priority. It is a good practice to run VoIP applications in the MPLS network that brings impressive Quality of Service (QoS) and provides more security to voice packets sent over the Internet. Other measures to secure these communication systems can also be taken more conveniently when VoIP is hosted in MPLS VPN.

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