Understanding VoIP security

Voice-over-IP solutions can benefit businesses big and small, offering calling features that facilitate streamlined company communications, improve customer service and open up new revenue-building opportunities. However, this technology also comes with risks. Because they are connected to company networks, VoIP systems are vulnerable to hackers. Last year, VoIP attacks increased, according to research from IBM. Nefarious coders were particularly focused on the session initiation protocol, a common VoIP signaling protocol used to support multimedia-rich communications, including simple phone calls. More than 51 percent of hackers targeted SIP sessions, intending to burrow their way into company servers.

While this may alarm both VoIP users and prospective adopters, there are workable solutions for preventing attacks and keeping systems secure. Organizations looking to stave off hackers and enjoy the many benefits these advanced phone systems bring should consider the following VoIP security best practices:

Focus on the firewall
These digital blockades represent the first line of defense in most effective data security schemes, SC Media reported. Businesses with VoIP solutions that offer online access must make sure this barrier stays intact and develop networking methods that further bolster firewalls. For example, information technology staff should limit private branch exchange access to only those calling from VoIP phones or using service providers' servers. This helps keep out intruders intending to piggy-backing on company communications.

Leverage encryption
Many VoIP providers offer robust data encryption services that seal off sensitive information from the uncredentialed, according to IT Toolbox. Organizations would be wise to use these features to their full potential or partner with third-party firms who can handle encryption duties. Additionally, virtual private networks are useful in this area, as they automatically encrypt data that passes through company networks.

Take the holistic approach
In addition to implementing VoIP-specific security strategies and systems, organizations should evaluate overarching data protection platforms. In the event that a cyber-attacker enters an internal network via a VoIP solution, larger platforms must be ready to prevent penetration or, at the very least, notify administrators that something is amiss. IT teams must address physical security as well. Are onsite VoIP phones protected against unauthorized users who enter the workplace? Do traveling employees properly secure their devices so that passersby cannot log into the system through an unprotected web portal? Businesses must consider these larger variables when addressing VoIP security.

"IT personnel must give users the knowledge they need to protect themselves and the organization."

Educate employees
Many hackers gain entry to company networks by way of user error, using decryption applications and other advanced tools to take advantage of apathetic employees with weak passwords and destructive digital habits. Of course, data security software cannot address this problem. IT personnel must step in and give users the knowledge they need to protect themselves and the organization. Password creation should come first on the list. Security experts recommend that users draft longer passwords with evenly distributed special characters, Wired reported. On top of that, passwords should never be used more than once, as such a practice can give hackers the power to access multiple accounts.

Administrators should pair training sessions with strict system-usage rules, according to SC Media. This way, employees can measure their behavior against an ideal baseline and adjust accordingly. That said, these restrictions should be entered into backend monitoring systems so that IT staff can quickly pinpoint users who fail to follow company VoIP protocols.

With these simple data security strategies, VoIP-equipped enterprises can take advantage of cutting-edge communication technology without worrying about external threats.

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