What does the Evolution of Online Security Mean for VoIP?

As with any developing technology, there are those looking to exploit both its providers and users. Unfortunately, VoIP's reliance on the internet to transmit data exposes users to security threats, ranging from eavesdropping to outright stealing of data. It’s not all bad news though, as security experts continue to explore new ways of safeguarding internet-based platforms against ever-evolving threats.

In this article, we’ll look at the past, present and future of online security and what it means for VoIP technology.

If you’d like to learn more about VoIP technology, what it is, and how it works - our article ‘What is VoIP?’ has everything you need to know.

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Past security challenges

Just as the 90s ‘internet boom’ brought businesses and consumers closer; VoIP’s rise a decade later allowed companies to elevate their communication. Early systems were especially vulnerable to threats, due to inferior security combined with VoIP’s internet connectivity.

Early threats

Online attackers were able to exploit weaknesses in these systems, allowing them to eavesdrop on calls and access sensitive data. With escalating breaches taking place, it highlighted a need for improved security measures.

Lack of encryption

A primary security concern with early VoIP models was a lack of encryption for voice data transmission. Encryption protects voice data by scrambling it, meaning only parties with a key can access the data. Without this, the voice packets transmitted over VoIP can be intercepted, putting user and customer confidentiality at risk.

Sophisticated system attacks

As internet use grew, smarter, more deceptive threats emerged, causing substantial damage and fooling users into handing over sensitive data. Some of these threats applied specifically to VoIP technology;  two of the most prominent being VoIP Phishing and Denial of Service attacks.

The former uses techniques such as impersonating VoIP service providers or sending malicious links via email. The latter floods company (sometimes even provider) networks and servers with traffic, making services inaccessible to users. 

Current risk prevention

Many early vulnerabilities to VoIP systems have been addressed via improved encryption protocols. These protocols are widely used to encrypt VoIP traffic, giving users peace of mind that their transmitted data is safe and secure.

Secure Real-Time Transport Protocol

SRTP protocol is a security framework built to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity of real-time data streams, particularly voice and video calls. It works by only allowing the caller and recipient to hear the contents of a call, while anyone trying to intercept it would simply hear static.

Transport Layer Security (TLS)

TLS is a protocol used to secure data transmitted between computers. It is designed to protect web browsers, email servers, and other applications against eavesdropping and tampering.

Both SRTP and TLS work similarly, allowing you to create codes (cryptographic keys). Information is then encrypted with this key and includes verification, letting recipients identify the sender. You can then share the code with the recipient, which allows them to access the data. 

Improved Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

MFA requires users to verify their identity multiple times before using their chosen service. They often use a unique code only accessible to the primary user, making it harder for criminals to hack their accounts.

Once overly complex and limited in function, MFA has evolved into a widely used, accessible security option. A prime example is Google reporting that in 2019, its MFA model helped users block 100% of automated bots, 96% of bulk phishing attacks, and 76% of targeted attacks. 

For VoIP, especially Unified Communications platforms which operate several systems at once; MFA is an essential part of ensuring only authorised users can log into their accounts.

Future prevention and challenges

As we mentioned earlier, when technology advances, so do security threats. With this in mind, let’s look at the upcoming models of VoIP security, along with the solutions and challenges they present.

Cloud Security

75% of contact centres currently operate from cloud-based VoIP services. This likely means businesses trust their providers to both maintain and secure their system, where once it was mostly done in-house. 

With more companies moving to the cloud, providers will need to double down on robust security measures. Some of these may include high-quality data encryption and intrusion detection systems, ensuring that the workloads and customer data of their clients are safe.

Behavioural analytics 

Certain VoIP systems, like T2K’s 3CX option, include powerful analytics tools. These tools monitor patterns of user behaviour alongside your network traffic. This allows them to identify suspicious activities and alert you to potential security incidents in real time.

Alongside protecting you from external threats, these analytics also work as a time-saving device, with reports that companies using contact centre analytics saw their average call handling time drop by 40%.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT is a network of devices that collect and exchange data with each other, as well as with central systems over the Internet. You may have seen examples of IoT, such as Amazon’s Echo Hub - a tablet interface that lets you control various electrical items around your home via the internet.

For VoIP, it can offer enhanced security. Through interconnected systems, you can integrate your VoIP system with security software and automated threat detection and response. 

It also comes with its own set of challenges, with 25% of all cyberattacks against businesses involving the IoT. This is due to so many devices being connected within one network, giving cybercriminals a larger surface area to exploit. To protect your system, consider robust authentication, encrypted communication channels, and proactive monitoring to detect and neutralise threats.

Blockchain networks

Though the concept of blockchain security for VoIP is still in its infancy, it has the potential to make life truly difficult for cybercriminals. 

Blockchains are digital networks of computers. Information is stored in blocks and maintained equally by each computer within the network. These blocks are extremely difficult to delete or change, making them a tamper-proof security option for any information sent via a VoIP network.

One concern is that both VoIP and blockchain require significant bandwidth. This means a spike in call volume could limit the bandwidth allotted to your blockchain network, in turn weakening your security measures. 

A solution to this would be investigating your bandwidth needs alongside blockchain requirements. This way, you can ensure your system can handle whatever you throw at it.

Securing VoIP Communications

If you’re thinking of trying any of these new processes in the future, it’s essential to stick to best practices to avoid security breaches and loss of data.

Stronger passwords

80% of data breaches are related to stolen, weak, or reused passwords; a statistic worth remembering when next choosing your login details.

Picking a unique, hard-to-guess password can safeguard you from more than just surface-level threats. It can protect your business against brute force attacks, secure user accounts, and bolster system security by stopping compromised accounts from being used in further threat attempts.

Security audits

Security audits contribute to the long-term protection of your business’s sensitive information. They allow you to familiarise yourself with your business security measures, identify potential vulnerabilities, and as an added extra; they help keep you compliant with security standards.

Network segmentation

With network segmentation, you can split your VoIP traffic from other data streams, isolating it into a separate part of your network. This stops threats which have occurred in one part of the network, from moving into any other areas. By creating these sections, you are limiting the potential damage to your business that an attack could cause.

Regulatory Compliance

Alongside technological solutions, you should also consider the role of regulatory compliance as part of your VoIP security. Requirements like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) have strict rulings around the handling of personal and sensitive data - which includes yes, your VoIP system. 

Ignoring these guidelines not only puts you at risk of legal action and fines, but could also result in loss of customer trust and cause damage to your reputation. By reading up and putting these regulations into practice, you are not only investing in the security of your business, but your customers too.

Considering the Future of VoIP Security

VoIP systems offer a cost-saving, flexible boost for phone-based businesses. However, as VoIP relies heavily on the internet, robust security is a must. Current protocols like SRTP, TLS and MFA allow you to control access to your data; while prospects like Blockchain security look to clamp down on data tampering. 

It’s worth looking into whether your VoIP system complies with GDPR and HIPAA regulations too. This reduces any risk of legal action or reputational damage. Conducting regular security audits can also help with this, while also being a proactive approach to threat detection.

Considering these options, allows you to run a successful telephony operation, while still being mindful of future developments in VoIP security.

If you’d like to learn more about securing your VoIP system, contact T2K today.

Lee Clarke
Sales Director

Having worked for T2k for nearly 25 years, it's fair to say that Lee is an expert when it comes to all things telephony and business communications. Overseeing the commercial side of the business, he has helped the company evolve and grow through the decades. In recent years, and with the advent of VoIP and hosted telephony, Lee has made sure that T2k is at the forefront of technological developments. With a firm interest in helping businesses navigate the world of telecoms, Lee is responsible for the majority of the content on this website.

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