VoIP Security Best Practices (Checklist)

Voice over internet protocol is a standard technology that allows people to make calls over an internet connection/VoIP has become a convenient option for traditional telephone services with the rise of broadband networks. Therefore VoIP is commonly used by consumers and businesses due to its easy accessibility.

Why is VoIP security important?

Security is a critically important part of any kind of business,  despite the size of the domain. Likewise, it plays a critical role in Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems as well.  VoIP is a great alternative to traditional telephony. It is often cheaper to operate a VoIP network and also be vulnerable to exploitation.

VoIP has become more secure as it evolves for about two decades. Even Though the VoIP service providers can provide a secure connection, it is still vulnerable to threat, as the cybercriminals find new ways to attack the systems.

VOIP Security Best Practices

Secure user credentials

This is quite an easy but mostly neglected practice. VoIP phones have a default password which is already set by the time you are purchasing the device. Users are thoroughly advised to immediately change this password after purchasing. This default password is something really common like admin/admin. This default credential may change from manufacturer to manufacturer, but it can be easily figured out as they are already shared with the public. Therefore this password should be changed the very first time you access the new device.

If you have an organization, data breaches can hit you harder, it is a witty idea to have a credential management policy that insists on having complex password requirements with an expiration period; To prevent your employees from getting locked, you can periodically remind them to renew their passwords aligning to the requirements.

Apart from that, two-factor authentication is also a great choice, as you will be notified of any kind of a malicious login attempt because it requires confirmation over another device too.

Use a router with a firewall

A common mistake that people make is connecting their IP devices to the internet without connecting to a router and avoiding firewalls. This simply means that you are exposing your devices to the threat because this enables anyone to connect to your phone’s web interface. The firewall will actively block any unauthorized access to your network.

To optimize the security, do not set the router to bridge mode. Bridge mode assigns a public IP address to all the devices connected to the network, disabling all the routing features.

VOIP Security Best Practices

Monitor call logs

This process requires very little technical knowledge of VoIP, but it is an important security practice. When you regularly check the call logs, it will help you to identify what regular use looks like. It becomes easier to capture any irregular or unusual activity which may be a sign of a data breach and also be beneficial for future expansion.

For example, you can keep a track of data including the following:

  • average call duration 
  • average hold time 
  • total calls / missed calls 
  • total number of incoming/outgoing calls 
  • total duration by user 

Use geo-fencing

Hackers usually initiate their attacks from foreign countries. They can use your VoIP system to make international calls, where the cost will be added to your account. We call this type of fraud, Toll fraud. 

When you cannot limit international calls, you can use geofencing to avoid hackers threats. Geo-fencing is the process of determining a virtual barrier, which is also used on network firewalls and servers to prevent connections to the regions with a high number of potential hacking actions. Further, You can authorize the relevant number of your trusted partners, which you need to communicate with.

Keep a track of security updates

As we mentioned in the beginning, cyber threats evolve with time. Therefore VoIP systems issue security patches to enhance security. It is important to keep track of these updates to keep your system up to date,  fixing all the vulnerability gaps.

Create user permissions

Another way of enhancing the security of VoIP is restricting access with user permission strategies. With this only selected people will be having the privilege to access the system. Now the system can easily identify a suspicious attempt of accessing.

There is VoIP service managing software that gives you the capability of defining different levels of user permission such as, administration, default etc. to restrict accessing the system. 

Ensure data encryption

Another important security practice is to encrypt all the transferred data between the system and the network With this type of protection, even if a hacker infiltrates the system, he won’t be able to capture the data properly. 

Encryption in VoIP

Use intrusion prevention systems

Intrusion prevention systems are capable of monitoring the overall performance of the VoIP system. These systems can ensure the quality of service by balancing the load on the network. Furthermore, it gives the flexibility to detect abnormal activities such as  Distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) with the above-mentioned load balancing measures and other security features.

Prevent Ghost Calls

Incoming calls without no one at the other end are called ghost calls. This is another way that hackers try to attack your system. 

To find a suitable VoIP system to hack, they do a port scanning. In port scanning hackers send out a data request to a large number of IP addresses and listen if any of the ports are responding. When a system receives this request, it will respond to the sender party to acknowledge that they have received its request, and now the phone started ringing. When the hacker receives this acknowledgement,  he gets to know the IP of the VoIP that responded. At this time a hacker can infiltrate it. If unfortunately, the VoIP system is without a firewall or having a default password, this will get attacked easily.

If the phone is protected, there is little chance of getting exploited, but they can annoy people by ringing randomly. Ghost calls can be prevented by setting the configurations to make the phone only accept incoming calls from the server that the system is connected to.

Outsource SaaS management

VoIP is an important entity of any business. Though it is said to be a simple alternative for traditional telephone systems, it too can get complicated when managing a large number of calls with partners. Since providing software as services has become popular nowadays, there are dedicated SaaS providers who are capable of building and maintaining your organization’s  VoIP services. Outsourcing your VoIP services or PBX is more convenient because when it is given to a dedicated party,  they can add more flexibility to the system such as management GUIs (ex: FreePBX) while being an extra set of eyes to your system, preventing suspicious intrusions.

Conclusion

The most important practice over everything is to educate the users on the practices. Studies say that 85% of data breaches are caused by human. If you can provide a descriptive understanding, a guideline and policies to follow when using your system to your employees and users, you can avoid most of the breech events such as disclosure of sensitive client  data, business data , i identity theft  and personally intrusive activities which can make potential damages to the business.

A few simple security practices into your system will help you to have a secured and advanced VoIP system. Therefore make these a practice and have a secured system.

Avatar for Shanika Wickramasinghe
Shanika Wickramasinghe

Senior Software Engineer at WSO2 which is the 6th largest Open Source Software Company in the World. My main skills are machine learning and software development. I have 5+ years of experience as a Software engineer.

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