5 VoIP Security Threats and How to Safeguard Against Them

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a wonderful technology with a lot of possibilities, and it can really make a great difference for your organization. However, any subscriber should be aware of the security threats associated with VoIP and have a plan for how to prevent these threats from harming your phone system.

Just as with other types of apps and online services, VoIP can be vulnerable to security issues, especially if left unprotected and open as a system. Essentially, VoIP uses networks like any other type of computer networking operation, so you really have to pay attention to key network security issues with VoIP just as with anything else.

Keep reading for tips and tricks that can help you protect yourself and your company. Remember, it’s not just your phone system that is vulnerable. Truthfully, your reputation as a company is also on the line whenever someone attacks your organization. It’s so much more than just your phone system!

Article Contents:

  1. Hacking
  2. Unencrypted Traffic
  3. Spam (SPIT)
  4. Denial of Service (DDoS)
  5. Hardware
  6. Other Threats

Are you ready for these? In this article, we’ll talk about each of these five threats to VoIP systems and we’ll offer our tips for protecting your system.

1. Hacking

Did you know your phone system can be hacked? It’s true; hacking isn’t just for computers. And really, your VoIP system is computer-operated, so it does make sense that this is a viable threat.

Anywhere you take your computer or mobile phone, you can use your VoIP system and access your phone service features. Pretty great, right? Yes, but it also means someone can hack your computer or mobile phone and immediately threaten your VoIP system. Being that your service is Internet-based, your phone system is now immediately vulnerable to any hacking attack that can be successful via the Internet. In theory, you’re a sitting duck unless you take every precaution.

Protect yourself:

  • Don’t rely on default passwords.
  • Set strong passwords and change them often.
  • Keep software updated on the computers you use.
  • Use antivirus software and secure your computers.
  • Know where viruses typically “live” on the Internet and avoid those places. Be wary of unsecured downloads.
  • Be careful with free hotspots; hackers love these.

2. Unencrypted Traffic

Leaving your data unencrypted can leave you vulnerable to someone stealing your personal or proprietary business information when they “listen in” on data traveling the net to get to your phone call recipient. Just like with other forms of unencrypted data, having your VoIP traffic left open allows others to take your information.

The solution? Encrypt your data. Many VoIP providers offer this service and all you need to do is look for someone who offers this as a feature.

3. Spam (SPIT)

Spam over Internet Telephony (SPIT) is just as wonderful as it sounds. Just like its email counterpart, spam, SPIT is unwanted communication that can be tough to filter out. This lovely type of message is often in robocall form and the subscriber doesn’t know they’ve received SPIT until they answer the phone and listen to the message. As such, these calls are hard to detect and avoid. They can be perfectly benign advertising, or they may have a more sinister purpose. For instance, some SPIT calls are merely unwanted and unsolicited ads for a service of some kind. Others, meanwhile, are scammers trying to waste your time and resources or, even worse, steal from you.

To prevent SPIT, one strategy is to use a robocall blocker. SPIT is often generated automatically and probably doesn’t involve a real caller, so anything you can do to block robocalls may very well reduce or eliminate the SPIT you have to deal with. Keep in mind that preventing SPIT can help protect your company from fraud and scams since SPIT often targets your employees and tries to trick you into giving away financial information or fool you into signing up for an unwanted service. Be wary of unusual calls, even if they come from a phone number you recognize, as sometimes callers spoof their phone numbers.

4. Denial of Service (DDoS)

A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) is a scary proposition for VoIP subscribers. Your business phone system is quickly and deliberately overwhelmed by an attacker so that it ceases to function. Yikes! Your phone system goes down completely or users struggle to get their calls through. Your Internet service is overwhelmed so much by a large volume of fake requests, causing everything to go dark. It makes it impossible for your VoIP service to function.

While it’s unlikely that this will happen to your business, it is nevertheless a risk of using VoIP that seems to increase every year for many businesses. You may want to use a virtual private network (VPN) to hide your true IP address, which can prevent attackers from seeing your actual online identity and bombarding it with fake requests. There are other security steps you can take, too, if your risk level for DDoS is high. Services are available that can redirect traffic and provide you with additional server capacity if you are suddenly hit with a DDoS. Thankfully, you probably won’t need one of these services unless you have a high-profile business or become a popular target. And if this is you, there are certain steps you can take to reduce the damage.

5. Hardware

Sometimes, your security isn’t within your control. Even if you or your vendor do everything possible to reduce your risk, there’s still another factor, and that’s the hardware you use! Phone, PBX and other hardware manufacturers do everything they can to reduce your risks, but they may still make and ship a product that’s later revealed to have serious flaws. This is something to remember.

To protect yourself, stay up-to-date on your hardware and keep track of any updates your manufacturer releases. Stay in the loop and learn about any attacks or security flaws that impact your equipment. Patch your system whenever information is released and look for updated software released by your manufacturers.

6. Other Threats

Of course, this isn’t a complete list. There are other threats to be aware of, so it’s important to use common sense when relying on VoIP and any other Internet-based service.

Here are a few of our tips to protect yourself:

  • Keep software and equipment updated regularly. Vendors often release security patches, and you want to know about them.
  • Protect physical and virtual access to your VoIP phones from unauthorized personnel. There’s no good reason unauthorized people should be allowed near your phones, PBX, or computers.
  • Teach your employees, colleagues and team members how to avoid scams and viruses online. Provide guidance on how to recognize social engineering and how to stop it.
  • Ask your VoIP provider to recommend security measures, then follow their advice whenever practical to do so.
  • Stay informed about security issues.
  • Promptly investigate any vulnerabilities and invite your team to report vulnerabilities when they find them.
  • Be careful what you outsource and who you do business with. Investigate and do some basic due diligence to make sure you hire legitimate employees, vendors, and others. Do your own screening so you don’t inadvertently give untrustworthy people access to your data and systems.

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