Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Communication

Making secure phone calls over the web.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), such as Skype, allows you to talk to people over the Internet for free. You can even place calls between a VoIP number and a landline for a fee. However, because VoIP is web-based, it does come with increased security risk and threats. Be sure you know how to spot them.

Spotting VoIP security risks

Telephone fraud is nothing new, although VoIP requires a bit of extra vigilance. Here are some common VoIP security issues and threats to be aware of:

  • Vishing (Voice phishing) uses an automated voice from a seemingly trustworthy source (like your bank) to trick you into sharing data such as bank account details and PINs. Unfortunately, VoIP technology makes it easy to redirect calls to predators – even if you're the one who originally initiated the call.
  • Caller ID impersonation happens when a predator poses as someone you may know or a company you trust (your bank, for instance). They do this by stealing (or spoofing) a digital caller ID and calling you directly and then asking you to verify personal details or financial information.
  • Spam over Internet Telephony (SPIT) is a combination of telemarketing and spam. VoIP is a quick, cheap and easy way to generate and distribute huge volumes of voice spam. These SPIT messages are far more intrusive than spam, and can be megabytes in size eating up your capacity.
  • Sniffing, eavesdropping and phone tapping are shockingly easy with VoIP technology. In addition to intercepting and recording your voice calls, hackers can access all your call control features like voice mailbox, call forwarding and caller ID, using them to launch more complex fraud attacks. The more common application of VoIP eavesdropping and tapping is corporate espionage and the intercepting of sensitive corporate information and conversations.
  • Toll fraud involves hacking into a VoIP network and allowing unauthorized users to continuously call revenue-generating phone numbers – often international toll numbers – to generate significant revenue at your or your business' expense.

VoIP risks and safety

Despite the above risks, using VoIP safely can greatly enhance your abilities to communicate with others all around the globe – as long as you take some precautions. If you've been using the Internet safely and securely, you should apply those online protection measures to VoIP as well.

In addition, here are a few VoIP specific security guidelines and tips:

  • Go with a VoIP provider that has secure encryption capability on their system. Enable all available password and encryption measures to maximize your call privacy and minimize opportunities for hacking in.
  • Only use VoIP equipment which conforms to the most up-to-date wireless security standards.
  • Use a firewall that is customized for VoIP – one that will constantly scan for threats and attacks, and also alert you to suspicious calling activity.
  • Ideally, your VoIP line would have its own separate, dedicated Internet connection so data network threats and VoIP line threats remain isolated.
  • All of your devices should always have reputable, effective updated security software – especially when using VoIP.
  • Use a VoIP provider and voicemail system that features PIN protection. Make a point to change your password or PIN often.
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