A Complete Guide to VoIP Security

VoIP (voice over internet protocol) has revolutionised business communications, offering cost savings, flexibility, and advanced features like automatic call transcription. But with cyber threats becoming increasingly common, ensuring the security of your VoIP system is crucial. You may even have asked yourself the question: is VoIP secure?

In this article, we explore the importance of VoIP security, including common threats faced by businesses, best practices to enhance security, and how to choose a secure, top-rated UK service. Whether you’re a small business owner or an IT leader, understanding and implementing effective security measures will safeguard your business communications.

Why Is VoIP Security Important?

VoIP phones enable you to make calls over the internet, and VoIP technology has many benefits compared to traditional phone lines. However, it also brings security challenges that can compromise the availability, confidentiality, and integrity of your business communications.

In particular, VoIP technology facilitates cybercrime across international borders, and there’s no guarantee that a perpetrator can be tracked down from a VoIP call. Indeed, the question ‘Can VoIP be traced?’ doesn’t have a straightforward answer. While tracing is possible, particularly by law enforcement or skilled IT professionals, individuals with a high level of technical expertise can maintain anonymity.

A breach in your phone system can lead to significant financial losses, reputational damage, and disruption of critical business operations. More specifically, you’ll need to ensure your VoIP system is secure in order to:

  • Protect sensitive information – A breach in VoIP security can lead to unauthorised access to personal information, financial details, and private conversations, resulting in trust erosion and potential legal issues.
  • Maintain regulatory compliance – Regulations like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) require you to take technical and organisational measures to protect user data. This makes ensuring the security of communication systems not just best practice but a legal necessity.
  • Ensure operational continuity – VoIP systems are integral to business operations. Security breaches can disrupt these operations, leading to downtime, loss of revenue, and damage to reputation.
  • Guard against fraud – VoIP systems can be a target for fraudsters attempting to exploit vulnerabilities for financial gain. Securing these systems is crucial to prevent financial losses and protect both the business and its customers.

Common VoIP Security Threats

Understanding the particular threats posed to VoIP security is crucial for safeguarding your IT infrastructure, so we outline the most important below.

Hacking and Unauthorised Access

VoIP systems, like any internet-based technology, are susceptible to hacking. Unauthorised access can occur when security protocols are inadequate. Hackers may exploit vulnerabilities to gain control of VoIP services, leading to significant privacy and operational risks.

Cybercriminals may then use their access to your VoIP systems as a platform to gain control of your other business systems and accounts. This highlights the need for continuous monitoring of the VoIP infrastructure and strong authentication methods like complex passwords and multi-factor authentication.

Misconfigured Internet Telephones

A common yet often overlooked threat is the misconfiguration of VoIP equipment. Misconfigured internet telephones risk creating vulnerabilities in your network, making it easier for attackers to exploit your system.

Frequent issues that lead to security breaches include default passwords left unchanged, unsecured web interfaces, and open ports. This makes it essential to properly configure and audit your VoIP setup.

Eavesdropping and Data Breaches

One of the most worrying threats to VoIP systems is the potential for eavesdropping. Attackers can intercept unencrypted VoIP calls to steal sensitive information, such as client data or confidential business discussions. Such breaches not only compromise privacy but also violate GDPR, posing legal and reputational risks for your business.

Service Disruption Attacks

Denial of Service (DoS) attacks can disrupt VoIP services, leading to downtime and impaired communication capabilities. These attacks overload the system with excessive requests, rendering it unable to process legitimate communications. In business sectors where timely communication is paramount, such disruptions can have dire consequences for customer service and business operations.

VoIP Phishing

VoIP phones usually show the Caller ID on an LCD screen or user interface. This has led to a form of VoIP phishing, or vishing. Here, hackers manipulate the Caller ID information and pose as legitimate callers to deceive unsuspecting users and gain access to sensitive information.

VoIP Security Best Practices

Once you've set up your system, the security of your VoIP system involves implementing the following best practices to reduce risks.

Regular Software Updates

Keeping your VoIP software and firmware up to date is critical. VoIP providers often release updates to patch security vulnerabilities, so you should check regularly for these and apply them immediately to ensure you’re protected.

Strong Authentication Measures

Implement robust authentication methods to prevent unauthorised access. This includes using strong, unique passwords and multi-factor authentication for system access. Educating staff about the importance of password security also helps prevent security risks such as easily guessable passwords.

Network Security Integration

Your VoIP system should be an integral part of your overall network security strategy. This includes configuring firewalls to protect VoIP traffic and using virtual private networks (VPNs) for remote communications. These should be used alongside intrusion detection systems and other network security tools like network monitoring platforms and endpoint security.

Encryption of call data is also critical, especially when it’s transmitted over public networks. This ensures that the data can’t be intercepted or tampered with by unauthorised parties. To maintain VoIP privacy, your VoIP service should use encryption protocols such as transport layer security (TLS) and secure real-time transport protocol (SRTP).

VoIP-Specific Security Tools

VoIP providers often include a suite of security tools within their service, such as fraud detection and call logging. These save you from the manual effort of monitoring call volumes, destinations, and durations to identify potential security breaches or unauthorised use of the system. Real-time threat monitoring tools can also help stop VoIP attacks early and prevent criminals from gaining access to your systems.

Larger organisations may also need to invest in additional VoIP security tools, such as session border controllers (SBCs), which manage and secure VoIP traffic, and intrusion prevention systems (IPS), which monitor the network for suspicious activities and potential threats.

Employee Training and Awareness

Human error is often a weak link in security. Regular training and awareness programs for your staff on VoIP security best practices can significantly reduce the risk of security breaches due to negligence or uninformed actions.

This training should cover recognizing and avoiding phishing scams, not sharing sensitive information over the phone, and reporting any suspicious activity or calls.

Choosing a Secure VoIP Provider: What To Look For

Selecting the right VoIP provider is crucial in ensuring a secure and reliable communication system. Here are key factors to consider:

Compliance with Industry Standards

Ensure the provider adheres to industry security standards and regulations, including the GDPR. This is essential to protect user data and avoid legal complications.

While you may not require your VoIP service to adhere to industry-specific compliance standards, such as HIPAA (for healthcare organisations), if a VoIP provider meets such standards it shows a commitment to security and data protection.

Reputation and Reliability

Research the provider’s reputation in the market. Read reviews, seek feedback from other businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector, and assess their track record in dealing with security issues.

Look for certifications and accreditations that validate the provider's commitment to security, such as ISO/IEC 27001, SOC 2, or Cyber Essentials. These certifications indicate that the provider has implemented rigorous security measures and follows best practices.

Provider’s Security Features

Evaluate the security features offered by the provider. Look for end-to-end encryption, network monitoring, fraud detection capabilities, and regular security audits. A reliable provider should have robust monitoring systems in place to detect and respond to security incidents promptly.

Ensure that the VoIP provider offers robust encryption protocols, such as TLS and SRTP, to protect your calls and data from interception and tampering.

Customer Support and Responsiveness

Consider the level of support offered. A provider that offers 24/7 support and quick response times is crucial for addressing any security concerns promptly. Knowledgeable support can make a significant difference in preventing and resolving security issues.

The Future of VoIP Security

The shift towards VoIP is well underway, with the UK moving away from its Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) in favour of VoIP technologies. As VoIP develops, new trends are emerging to enhance security, as are more sophisticated tools to compromise VoIP systems. This makes ensuring your VoIP security an ongoing process.

For users, managing VoIP security could become a much easier task. Artificial intelligence (AI) is being increasingly integrated into VoIP systems to help detect and prevent security threats in real time. Modern encryption protocols may be adopted to increase both the performance and security of VoIP systems.

Modern VoIP providers are offering cloud-based solutions for their services. These services improve security by offloading configurations and server management to a team of specialists rather than relying on in-house expertise. The risk of misconfigured or poorly updated hardware can be further reduced by using softphones, or software-based phone systems, where updates can be automatically applied.

While these changes make VoIP security more straightforward, an increasing security risk for VoIP services comes from integrating the Internet of Things (IoT) into businesses. Everything from televisions to lightbulbs are connected to the internet and VoIP systems are expected to integrate seamlessly with IoT devices. This leads to smarter and more efficient operations but also requires stronger security measures.

Next Steps

Securing your VoIP system is necessary to protect your business communications from evolving cybersecurity threats. To do this, you need to understand the common threats, adopt security best practices, and carefully select a reliable provider. This will also help ensure that your VoIP system is efficient and compliant with data protection regulations.

Frequently Asked Questions

How secure is a VoIP phone?
VoIP phones can be highly secure when configured correctly and paired with robust security practices such as regular updates, strong encryption, and using a secure VoIP provider. New AI security tools and managed, cloud-based VoIP services can also be used to ensure the security of your VoIP systems.
What are the security threats to VoIP?
Common security threats to VoIP include call interception, caller ID spoofing, vishing, DoS attacks, and malware. These threats can compromise sensitive information and disrupt business operations. Misconfigured VoIP devices can also present security risks and make it easier for cybercriminals to gain access to your systems.
How do I make my VoIP secure?
To secure your system, follow VoIP security best practices such as applying software updates, implementing strong authentication measures, integrating VoIP security into your overall network security, and using VoIP-specific security tools. Educating users and regularly monitoring call logs also reduce security risks.
Written by:
Phillip is a freelance tech writer who has worked in the IT sector for 13+ years. He has amassed a wealth of technical skills throughout his varied career, with highlights including roles as Laboratory IT Manager at the University of Cambridge, Linux Engineer on a British Atlantic Survey expedition, and IT Officer at Newnham College. Phillip is currently Head of Content and Product Manager at REAKT, an online sports coaching app.
Reviewed by:
James thinks all businesses can improve if they use the right technology. At Expert Market, he utilises his 4+ years experience as a researcher to offer specialised advice on a wide range of categories from CRM to Fleet Management.