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Making Your VoIP Secure

Updated on October 16, 2012
Securing VoIP with a VPN
Securing VoIP with a VPN

Security Issues in VoIP

As a technology based on the Internet, VoIP faces all the associated security risks that Internet applications have to deal with every day. This includes snooping on VoIP data while it is in transit, and while it resides on endpoints. It is up to the VoIP or SIP provider as well as the person using it to ensure that they take all measures to put in place effective security measures. This is not to say that the traditional PSTN phone system does not have its own security risks. It does. However, they are well known and so we can take measures to mitigate them. In addition, there is a legislative framework in place that specifically deals with wiretapping. It is unclear as to whether or not those rules apply to VoIP as well.

One of the most powerful ways you can effectuate VoIP security is to encrypt the data as it passes over the Internet. There are several ways to do this. Using a VPN is one of the most common and powerful techniques that businesses make use of. A VPN encrypts all VoIP traffic just like it does with all Internet data, making it invisible and meaningless to anyone who would eavesdrop. There are a few disadvantages to this however. In the first place, such facilities are not easily available to individuals unless the SIP providers themselves actively support it. Second, a VPN incurs a significant bandwidth overhead that can make VoIP unusable over wireless data connections that are already somewhat flaky to begin with.

More importantly however, a VPN can create the illusion of security while other points in the system go unguarded. It is universally acknowledged that the most insecure part of a VoIP system – or any communications system for that matter – are the endpoints through which the traffic jumps. For example if you have malware on your PC or smartphone that actively monitors outgoing VoIP connections, no amount of encryption will help you. Similarly, if you use a weak password to log into your SIP system, you could easily end up compromising the entire security infrastructure of VoIP.

Some of the disadvantages of a VPN such as the high-bandwidth overhead can be mitigated using new technologies like SRTP. Certain VoIP providers like Skype already provide heavy 256 bit encryption.

VoIP integration with the PSTN phone system is yet another risk since it merges the security problems of the IP world and the analog one. Contact your ITSP providing PBX systems in Los Angeles to find out what security measures you can take to ensure that your Internet-based communications are safe from eavesdropping.


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