Posts in Category: Security

Better pay attention – Identity and Security

What happens when you get a letter in the mail and it appears to be tampered with?  I don’t know about you, but I either think that it got mangled in the postal sorting machines, or someone has been tampering.  I don’t immediately assume that it’s tampered with, as I am not that important of a person. But there are a few “less than desirable” folks I have come across in my travels that necessitate thinking that way at times. If I suspect that it is tampered, I have the ability to complain to the US Postal Service (or whoever the carrier is) and start an inquiry.  There’s a certain level of accountability.

Telecommunications accountability

With telecommunications, accountability is less effective.  Say your phone rings – do you assume that someone is listening in on your phone call?  Probably not unless you are in a similar profession as Tony Soprano.  The fact of the matter is this – people’s historical sense of security, or assuredness regarding source and point-to-point communications must be questioned.  I don’t mean to sound like a harbinger of doom, but this questioning comes as a result of modern technology.  Let’s take the simple example of the receiving a phone call.  Your phone rings.  The name of the person calling you is displayed on the phone’s screen.  It’s your Mother’s name, or her phone number.  Most of us would proceed with answering the call expecting the person on the other end to be our Mother.  Now, this leap of faith may be questioned if the masses understood the ease of “spoofing” this data. Мeaning, people can pretend they are your Mom just to get you to answer the phone.  Telemarketing companies are very savvy employing some techniques.  They realize if the caller ID displays “ABC Telemarketing Company” the odds of the phone being answered decreases tremendously.  But what if the caller ID were something more ambiguous, like “out of area”?  Well they did just that, then the FTC mandated they had to stop the “out of area” practice, and start displaying their phone number, and if possible company name.  Frankly, that didn’t do much as most people just lumped the “out of area” calls as telemarketing calls anyways.  At least that’s what I did.  This is really just a ‘cat and mouse’ game between the FTC/FCC and the telemarketers.  To keep things ambiguous, most telemarketers elected to just provide their phone number to display.  While not ideal to conceal the identity, it’s better than having “ABC Telemarketing Company” displayed.  In fact, because I am from Michigan, I usually accept most phone calls from any area-code in Michigan because I don’t know who’s phone might have changed – so I elect to answer rather pass the call to v-mail.  The constant balancing act our governing bodies must play between protecting free markets interests (read as commerce/business) on the one side, and protecting constituents on the other side, necessitates that we be more vigilant.

Phone calls (not only VOIP)

Back to the comparison of receiving a parcel versus a phone call.  If I get a package from my friendly postal working in the mail, I know for certain that the package was carried from the sender to me by the courier. UPS, FEDEX, etc.  When it comes to phone calls, the only thing we can be certain of is that the last part of the call was carried by my phone company.  The reality is that mostly phone calls, regardless of the technology, are carried by multiple phone companies.  Out the window goes any accountability.  Say I received a call, and heard some someone other than the person calling me starting singing a song (rare I know, but definitely possible), how can I determine where or how this intrusion took place?  I would start with my phone company, for sure, and if the breach into our conversation happened within the administrative domain of my phone company, there might be something that could be done.  The odds would that being the case aren’t great, though, and pinpointing where the breach occurred could very well be impossible.  The routes or paths that phone calls take over the telephone network change so frequently that oftentimes placing, say five simultaneous calls to the same destination might take five different paths through the network.  It’s the way things are.  Add to this situation the different technologies used, like VoIP versus TDM, any end-to-end reconstruction is arguably impossible.
 
At the end of the day, what this means to “Joe consumer” as a politician would put it, is that you can’t trust the source, or the path phone calls take through the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) with any level of certainty.  This is an unfortunately truth of the world we operate in today.

How to Choose a VOIP Provider and How Important Is It For Your Business

 

VOIP is a telecommunications technology that replaces and upgrades the legacy Public Switched Telephone Network cabling. Its only drawback is that it requires Internet, but in return VOIP provides secure access and lots of extras important to business telephony.

VOIP BENEFITS

 

Transferring to VOIP is almost mandatory if you are running business that relies on telephony or if you are simply planning to change your telecom system. VOIP offers important benefits, both financial and operational. It simplifies the infrastructure and reduces call, maintenance and moving costs.

A growing trend

Growing numbers of businesses have already moved to VOIP realizing these benefits. The trend is not surprising considering the lower costs for businesses. According to analysis switching from legacy systems to SIP trunking lowers the total cost by 50%.

Upgrade legacy systems

VOIP gives the business access to the all the benefits of Internet telephony. With the new infrastructure Voip connects your PBX to an Internet Telephony Provider, benefiting you from the lower cost of long distance calls and professional pbx functions. You can even use rented cloud PBX to lower maintenance and infrastructure costs.

Connect your branches

If have interstate branch offices and want to connect them to the communication facilities of head office, you can connect them with VOIP. This can be done by connecting the sites to your infrastructure or using a service provider that can connect your facilities with cloud PBX. Both ways, you provide your branches with improved communications eliminating duplicate infrastructure while effectively halving the support staff needed.

Simplify infrastructure

Operate separate networks for data and voice is not cost effective and is even harder to backup. You can make significant savings with VOIP transition. using a single channel for data, voice and video will reduce network complexity and you will cut the costs for upgrades, backup lines and maintenance.

Mobile communications

As mentioned before the main disadvantage of VOIP communications is the requirement for internet connection. It is not much of a problem when you are calling from the office but field workers don’t have that privilege. Some VOIP providers like MIXvoip recently solved that issue by using DTMF allowing mobile VOIP calls to be made even without internet connection.

Selection factors

With that many benefits, how would you proceed when choosing a VOIP provider? Which are the most important factors to consider?
As people that have been in the VOIP business for quite some time now, we recommend you to choose by:

  1. Security
  2. Quality of Support
  3. Extended Services
  4. Pricing
  5. Mobility
  6. Call Quality

 

Security

Security the most important factor because VOIP is an Internet technology. As such it can be subject attacks and other risks that come with that environment. Service providers offer different security measures and techs. Software measures include authentication, encryption and the use of secure real time transport protocols. Hardware security is mostly done with the use of separate network access routers it is called transport-layer security and is used to protect your network against attacks that can disrupt the phone service.

Quality of support

Quality of support really important too and definitely should be considered. As with every service, at some point problems will arise and you should be confident that your provider can minimize the downtimes. VOIP is an Internet service often hosted on cloud servers, as such businesses don’t need support staff on site, the service provider support teams have the responsibility to keep everything running.

Pricing and mobility

Pricing and mobility are mostly self explanatory. They are both very business specific and depend on individual business structure and needs. Some providers charge flat, based on number of devices, others charge based on the number of calls your business makes. Most VOIP providers do not offer unlimited calls but there are exceptions. If you have lots of field workers you should make sure the company offers a mobile app.

Call quality

Call quality is not that important but shouldn’t be neglected. Most providers promote on call quality but you should know that sound quality requires more data. When more data is used you can make less simultaneous calls without call interferences and you will need to upgrade your internet plan.

VOIP is essential if you want to enjoy the advantages of business communications, save money and achieve business, financial and operational benefits.