SHARE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Bryan Johns
Bryan Johns is the Community Director for Digium, the Asterisk company. In this role, Bryan works globally to foster growth...
Read Full Bio >>
SHARE



Bryan Johns | February 24, 2012 |

 
   

Security as the Enemy of Convenience in IP Communications

Security as the Enemy of Convenience in IP Communications How do you make full use of VOIP capabilities without exposing their network to the opportunity for compromise and fraud?

How do you make full use of VOIP capabilities without exposing their network to the opportunity for compromise and fraud?

VoIP technology brings with it the promise of advanced features, flexibility and expense reduction, which makes it an attractive solution for any company considering installing or upgrading a phone system. Despite all of the attractive attributes of VoIP for business communications, there are risks associated with operating these solutions. In order to make certain capabilities available to remote facilities, teleworkers or mobile employees, certain services have to be exposed publicly in ways that can make securing these systems a more complex endeavor. To put it succinctly, security has the ability to be the enemy of convenience in modern business communications networks.

The migration of voice services onto data networks has significantly transformed the security environment for this category of service. VoIP servers have specific security requirements that, if overlooked, can expose your network to those who would fraudulently route many thousands of minutes of termination to satellite phone carriers in the former Soviet Union at more than five dollars per minute. You do the math.

At a recent conference, the speaker asked the room if anyone had experienced VoIP fraud personally and a man raised his hand to say "My company unknowingly processed nearly $500,000 in fraudulent calls due to a VoIP hack". A number like that should really put the VoIP security issue into perspective.

Unfortunately, public access to VoIP applications is a necessary evil to allow for modern features such as remote device registration or mobile device integration. These features are promoted heavily as additional value in most VoIP solutions and provide great efficiency and control to the companies that utilize them. Considering that the desire for convenience is, at times, diametrically opposed to the requirement for security, how does one make full use of remote capabilities without exposing their network to the opportunity for compromise and fraud?

The following best practices, tactics and technologies can mitigate the risk of fraud while leaving important functionality and capabilities intact. Beyond the obvious firewall restriction of any and all unnecessary services, here are a few of the ways that you can secure your VoIP network without walling it off from remote access by authorized personnel:

Console Login Via SSH is a No-No--SSH access as a method of compromising a server is specific to systems that run on top of a POSIX operating system such as any variant of Linux or Unix. The SSH daemon on your VoIP server(s) should be configured to authenticate only via encrypted key-pair and the service should only be exposed publicly if it is absolutely required.

Strong Password Policies Aren't Optional--The most popular method of hacking IP phone systems and networks is to use automated password cracking applications to "guess" an authorized device's login credentials. Mandate passwords of greater length (eight or more characters) and with sufficient diversity (requiring case, numbers and special characters.)

Route Limitations Can Be a Life Saver--Limit the routes available from your network. If your people don't need to call outside of your local calling area, deny any other routes from termination or implement account codes (password length/diversity important here too) as a second layer of defense against fraud.

Countermeasures Are Your Friend--Use open source software countermeasures on a Linux server to dramatically reduce unauthorized access to your VoIP network. Fail2Ban is a great example of software that watches access attempts to services in your environment, recognizes patterns, and automatically flags fraud attempts as such. Properly configured, software like Fail2Ban can allow you to expose necessary services publicly without opening you up to hackers. As soon as a preconfigured number of bad access attempts are made, the source IP address of the attempt is logged and any future attempt is ignored.

Fraud Mitigation is Worth Considering--The rise of VoIP-based telephony fraud has birthed a number of companies specializing in mitigating this category of fraud. One example of this new type of service provider is Tel-Aviv, Israel-based Humbug Telecom Labs. Humbug offers an affordable subscription service that monitors the traffic patterns and usage across a VoIP network, sends alerts when anomalous activity is detected and can even shut-down services in real-time when fraud is detected.

When you properly implement these and other security protocols in your VoIP network, you can open your systems to remote devices, mobile users and remote administration in good conscience. If you aren't certain of your ability to implement these best practices, find a consultant who can. If you can't find a consultant who can, confine your VoIP network to your LAN and do not expose any of its services publicly. If you do, you just might end up with an unexpected $500,000 phone bill.





COMMENTS



Enterprise Connect Orlando 2018
March 12-15 | Orlando, FL

Connect with the Entire Enterprise Communications & Collaboration Ecosystem


Stay Up-to-Date: Hear industry visionaries in Keynotes and General Sessions delivering the latest insight on UC, mobility, collaboration and cloud

Grow Your Network: Connect with the largest gathering of enterprise IT and business leaders and influencers

Learn From Industry Leaders: Attend a full range of Conference Sessions, Free Programs and Special Events

Evaluate All Your Options: Engage with 190+ of the leading equipment, software and service providers

Have Fun! Mingle with sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, guest speakers and industry players during evening receptions

Register now with code NOJITTEREB to save $200 Off Advance Rates or get a FREE Expo Pass!

October 18, 2017

Microsofts recent Ignite event had some critically important announcements for enterprise communications. Namely, Microsofts new Team Collaboration offering, Teams, will be its primary communicatio

September 20, 2017

Customer experience can make or break your business. But how do you achieve outstanding customer service when you're dealing with outdated organizational structure, lagging technology, dated proces

August 16, 2017

Contact centers have long been at the leading edge of innovation in communications technology, given their promise of measurable ROI and the continual need to optimize customer interactions and sta

September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular BlogGeek.me blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.