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New Cyberthreat Frontier: 5 Ways to Improve Telecom Security

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John FakhouryJoin me in the Wayback Machine, where we will bask in the golden glow of Norton Antivirus. Remember, way back in time, when that little yellow box with the black “N” kept our machines safe from harm, and the distant threat of cybersecurity breaches simply didn’t apply to us?

That was nice, wasn’t it? But, as we all know, those days are over, so let’s hop back into the machine and travel back to the present.

You’re a small business owner who keeps a diligent eye on overhead, cash flow and your staff, all the while striving to deliver an amazing product or service. As you sort through your monthly bills, you come upon a phone bill to the tune of $12,000 that sends you into deep shock. You recover from the urge to dial 9-1-1, opting instead to call your service provider to find out what the heck just happened.  

That marks the first of many frustrating phone calls and emails over the next few weeks fighting with the phone service provider. Don’t worry, I’m sure your day-to-day work demands will wait on hold while you do that.

This scenario is an unfortunate reality for business owners all over the United States. If you have yet to have a customer find out through a phone bill that their phone system was used to make thousands of dollars in international calls, check out the stats: $38.1 billion is lost every year due to telecom fraud, according to the Communications Fraud Control Association’s 2015 Global Fraud Survey. That’s almost 2 percent of total telecom revenues globally, with 89 percent of respondents saying fraud losses had increased or stayed steady within their companies since 2013. PBX hacking and IP PBX hacking are the top two methods for committing fraud, with attackers often getting in through a PBX’s maintenance port or Direct Inward System Access (DISA) function. So it’s likely a matter of time.

Cyberthreats today come at us from every direction. If customers think PCs, smartphones and other devices connecting to the network or an employee clicking on a malicious link in an email are the only points of concern, they’re wrong. Every IP entry point — including a phone system, security system, IoT sensors or [fill in the blank] are all fair game, and losses can be very costly.

Without the right security protocols for phone or communications platforms, in addition to the network, your company and your clients can left reeling operationally and financially. But fear not — there are ways to avoid experiencing that awful feeling of a security breach or a breakdown in your communications platform.

Follow these six simple steps to improve telecom security:

  1. Install phone systems behind the firewall; this is your first and easiest measure to prevent breaches.  
  2. Change the default system password immediately, and update every 30 days using guidelines for strong passwords. There’s a reason your bank won’t let you use “password.” Don’t help boiler rooms full of typing monkeys get lucky. Switch up your passwords frequently.
  3. Secure your trunks: Implement dial codes that require pins for international calls. If the business has no need to dial internationally or to use DISA, turn off the capability.
  4. Move to a cloud-based phone system. The future is now, and cloud-based technology offers innovations in security in a secure data center with a support team to monitor for and rapidly respond to such threats.
  5. Have a disaster recovery plan for the communications system. Install a backup voice service, or line up a SIP provider for worst-case scenarios. 

If you’re still worried for yourself or customers, consult with a managed service provider, like my company, that has experience with telecom, cloud voice and SIP security — before getting hit with a five-figure bill. At that point, even the Wayback Machine won’t help.

John Fakhoury is the founder and chief executive officer of Framework Communications, a single-source managed IT and telecommunications firm in Chicago. Framework received the Channel Partners 360° Business Value Award three successive years, 2013-2015. Fakhoury is a member of the 2015-16 Channel Partners Advisory Board. Follow @CommFramework on Twitter.


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