VoIP Vulnerabilities

Look, we’re not bashing VoIP here. VoIP and related technologies represent about 85% of our business, so we are big supporters. However, to be forewarned is to be forearmed, and we want to be very transparent about some vulnerabilities that VoIP implementations can present, and what to do about them.

First of all, it is important to realize that even though VoIP looks a lot like just another data application, the fact that it is a real-time, synchronous application that may present  challenges that are very different from standard data applications. Great care needs to be taken when implementing VoIP technology and you’ll probably want the help of experts.  Like Team One Solutions, for example.

Here are some of VoIP’s vulnerabilities:

1)      Power. VoIP phones need power, rendering them subject to going offline during an electrical outage. This can be mitigated by making sure the phones are connected to a Power over Ethernet (PoE) switch, and connecting that switch, plus the PBX and other networking equipment to a properly sized and configured UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply).

2)      Bandwidth. VoIP conversations use network bandwidth (generally 100-200kbps per conversation) so it’s important that your organization’s overall LAN switching capacity is adequate to meet peak demand for both voice and data services. In addition, best practice is to run the voice over a separate VLAN from your data streams in order to provide the highest QoS (Quality of Service) level.

3)      Security. This is a long complex topic, but note that, due to the real-time nature of VoIP, providing network security for VoIP is very different from asynchronous data applications. Standard firewall security applied to VoIP will introduce unacceptable delays and consequent loss of quality. We think it’s also important to deploy encryption protocols, change passwords frequently, and above all, keep the VoIP software up to date. In addition, an organization should pay attention to physically securing the equipment.

4)      Quality. As the VoIP market first developed, voice quality, internally and externally, was, and still is in some cases, less than ideal. Even now, the internal network supporting VoIP has to be carefully engineered at the company level in order to have a satisfactory experience.  Utilizing VoIP circuits to connect other offices, home, and remote workers presents additional challenges for ensuring voice quality and security.  You will need adequate bandwidth and a means of managing the QoS to successfully garner the benefits of VoIP.  Additionally, the preferred method of connection to the outside world is now SIP trunking, a VoIP protocol that has many cost and functionality benefits, and corresponding challenges to proper implementation.  You need to be certain that your internal IPPBX is certified as inter operable with your SIP trunk carrier.

5)      911. VoIP phones do not communicate their physical address, so if you’re going to have VoIP phones deployed at worker’s homes or other remote offices, it is very important that your carrier knows this. You have a choice here: either tell the remote workers to not use the phone for dialing 911, or work with your telecom provider team to program the remote phone(s) to display the address where the phone will be used in a 911 call.

VoIP solutions present many opportunities for the small and medium sized organization, but selection and implementation must be under the direction of a skilled team.

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