Any modern business using a VoIP system knows that maintaining security is essential for confidentiality, customer trust, and regulation compliance.
Industries like healthcare and finance, for example, have strict regulations on communication security, so VoIP providers with proper encryption help companies follow these regulations—even when employees access the network from far away places.
Meanwhile, poor encryption and security can also affect your bottom line, as scammers and fraudsters will find ways to exploit weaknesses in VoIP systems for profit. The most common exploitation is toll fraud, which, according to a Communications Fraud Control Association (CFCA) report, cost businesses nearly $40 billion in 2021.
Toll fraud works by hijacking a company’s phone system to make artificial and high-volume long-distance calls. The owner of the system gets charged for these calls (often without noticing), and then fraudsters are given a share of the revenue from colluding carrier services.
Along with toll fraud, there are many other vulnerabilities of VoIP systems—but as long as you have a VoIP hosting service that takes proper security and encryption measures for you, they’re not worth stressing over.
Good Services Handle VoIP Security and Encryption For You
A hosted VoIP service is a cloud-based communications solution offering secure voice calling and messaging over the internet. Nextiva, RingCentral, and Dialpad are some examples from our list of the top VoIP services of 2023.
The beauty of these services is that security and encryption come baked in. The VoIP providers update software and firmware, maintain hardware, and help follow regulatory compliance for you.
Of course, fraudsters and scammers are constantly evolving their game, but VoIP providers respond to these attacks in real time and keep your system safe from the latest threats.
With a hosted VoIP service, your employees have individual login credentials to access their VoIP accounts, and all calls your company makes go through the service provider’s network. That means the VoIP provider handles the security and encryption while routing calls, not you.
That also means your business is kept safe no matter where your employees are because a VoIP service lets them access the secure communication network from any softphone. Your employees won’t be tasked with performing any extra security-related tasks either, as VoIP services apply the latest measures across the entire network.
What Should a Secure VoIP Provider Have?
A good VoIP provider should have robust encryption protocols to keep your data safe while it’s in transit. That way, voice calls and messages are indecipherable until they reach their destination, where only the recipient can decode them.
Similarly, a firewall and/or intrusion detection system helps prevent attacks and unauthorized access. Enhanced login security measures like two-factor authentication (2FA), for example, further secure access, and a password-and-token system can also be an effective measure against unwanted infiltration.
The following practices help VoIP providers secure their networks:
- Session Border Controllers (SBCs): An SBC acts as the gatekeeper of the network by regulating IP communication flow. SBCs are particularly useful for protection against Denial of Service (DoS) and Distributed DoS (DDoS) attacks.
- Transport Layer Security (TLS): TLS protocols use cryptography to secure a VoIP network’s signaling and media channels. TLS protocols use a digital handshake to authenticate parties and establish safe communications.
- Virtual local area network (VLAN) segmentation: VLAN segmentation helps users distinguish VoIP traffic from other data. This segmentation of traffic makes it easier to recognize eavesdropping and other attempts at interception.
- Secure Real-Time Transport Protocol (SRTP): SRTP is a media encryption measure that acts like a certificate of authenticity, which can be required before granting media access.
The VoIP industry has standards and frameworks in place to guide companies with the best security practices available. In fact, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) publishes guidelines that cover this sector.
A good provider should have the following accreditations and certifications:
- PCI Compliance: PCI compliance is an information security standard for card payments. Having this certification facilitates secure payments from major credit cards.
- ISO/IEC 20071: This Information Security Management System (ISMS) outlines a global set of standards that helps secure business data.
- ISO/IEC 27002: This Code of Practice for Information Security Controls outlines the controls and best practices for securing information.
- ISO/IEC 27005: This certification refers to Information Security Risk Management. It provides guidelines for assessing and managing information security risks.
- ISO/IEC 27017: This establishes protocols for cloud service providers. It helps explicitly secure cloud services and their ecosystems.
- ISO/IEC 27018: This outlines how to protect personally identifying information (PII) on public clouds.
Secure VoIP providers also need to be aware of their human-layer security. Many scams originate from human error, so a business is only as safe if its staff members are reliable. As such, businesses are vulnerable to social engineering attacks.
Social engineering is the process of manipulating individuals into giving up sensitive information. Rather than relying on technical vulnerabilities, many scammers use human psychology to obtain passwords, login details, and other sensitive information.
Scammers often use phishing techniques to gain trust. This technique involves sending messages and emails that appear legitimate, ultimately leading individuals to give up passwords or new login details after trusting the source’s legitimacy.
VoIP providers can limit opportunities for social engineering by implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA). Simply put, the more authentication steps required, the more information a scammer needs to extract, and the more information a scammer needs to extract, the lower their chances of infiltration.
Employee training and awareness are also critical factors in reducing social engineering attacks, as monitoring communication patterns and identifying irregularities can root out social engineering attempts before they gain any traction.
To combat these measures and educate employees even further, Udemy, Coursera, and edX run cybersecurity courses that include modules on social engineering. Similarly, Black Hat and DEFCON include workshops on the relationship between psychology and security.
Self-Hosted VoIP Security and Encryption Is a Challenge
Some companies choose to host their own VoIP systems on their company premises. This comes with some advantages, as creating a self-hosted system from the ground up gives you more options for customization and control.
However, several challenges make hosting a VoIP service impractical for many businesses. These areas include:
- Cost: Setting up a VoIP system is expensive relative to subscribing to an existing service. A VoIP service provider already has the necessary infrastructure, hardware, and backend up and running.
- Responsibility: Self-hosting offers customization and control at a cost. With your own VoIP system, you must update software, manage hardware, and troubleshoot technical issues.
- Scalability: Increasing capacity in your self-hosted VoIP system could require hardware upgrades and other configurations. You can achieve the same capacity increase with a few clicks using a VoIP service.
- Security and encryption: With a self-hosted VoIP system, security and encryption are your responsibility. For many business owners, this alone is enough to reject self-hosting.
Additionally, self-hosting is often only possible with a dedicated IT team. Without one, your security and encryption probably won’t be as good as a hosted service provider—which has its own team dedicated to running the latest security protocols.
Using a self-hosted VoIP also has complications for remote teams, as you must configure the network for remote access while also maintaining security. This process usually involves a virtual private network (VPN) or other secure remote access methods.
If you go down the self-hosting route, you’ll need several things:
- VPN: A virtual private network creates a secure, encrypted connection to your VoIP system. This measure is essential for remote workers who may be connecting via unsecured networks.
- Firewall: A firewall acts as a filter or barrier, blocking malicious traffic from entering your network.
- Server: A server is a central component of a VoIP system. You need a system with enough power and memory to handle the VoIP traffic.
- Phones or softphones: A phone or softphone is the endpoint that employees use to make calls and send messages.
- Server software: Server software options like FreeSWITCH and Kamailio are open-source. Commercial VoIP server software is also available.
- Operating system: Operating systems for VoIP services are often Linux-based.
- Security software: Security software like intrusion detection/prevention systems and encryption software keeps your network safer.
Let the Pros Handle VoIP Security and Encryption
VoIP security is complex and constantly evolving, so outsourcing to a VoIP service makes sense for a variety of reasons.
For example, services like Nextivia, 8×8, and Dialpad do the heavy lifting for you, so there’s no need to buy, configure, and maintain costly VoIP infrastructure that’ll be obsolete in a few years.
Meanwhile, security and encryption are the cornerstones of a good VoIP business, and most VoIP service providers will have better security and encryption than self-hosted solutions in the long run.
So unless you’re in the telecom industry and have major communication security chops, it’s probably best to let the pros handle it.