VOIP services are vulnerable to cyber attacks says IBM

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A cyber attack alert has been issued by IBM to all those using VOIP services across the world. The computing giant has issued an alert that cyber attacks involving VoIP protocol Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) have accounted for 51% of security event activity in this year.

According to IBM’s Security Intelligence Group, VOIP services are being hijacked by cyber crooks to conduct cyber attacks. The intensity of such attacks is extremely high and can damage the services to such an extent that it can cause internet outage in an entire nation on a complete note.

As SIP protocol is commonly used application layer for VOIP based services, an upward trend in attacks targeting this protocol is being observed.

IBM’s Security Intelligence report has confirmed that specially crafted SIP messages when terminated incorrectly has the potential to create network connectivity spikes. These strikes, when made on a persistent note, will cause vulnerable servers and equipment to fail. A spike in October 2016 was caused by pushing invalid characters into SIP messages.

Generally, as VOIP services like web calls are routed through the same path used by network and internet traffic, cybercriminals use the traffic to exploit corporate networks. They intercept, capture and modify the calls in such a way that the cyber attack leads to degrading or elimination of service.

VOIP allows fraudsters and scamsters to conduct caller ID spoofing with minimal cost and effort. Thus, it allows the hackers to attain data or facilitate additional scams against their targets.

In early 2016, the media buzzed with reports of certain VOIP phones that had insecure default configurations, which allowed attackers to make, receive and transfer calls. Hackers can also use VOIP to upload new firmware, play recordings and induce surveillance software into big company clients seeking VOIP services.

Some fraudsters in Nigeria have also succeeded in making toll fraud, where they first take control of network access and then make international calls without paying for the service. Even DDoS attacks enabling thousands of junk calls per minute can also be made by using automated IP dialers.

Cisco’s Talos security group which offers VOIP services has suggested the following tips reduce VoIP security issues-

•    First the intensity can be reduced by applying encryption by segment, device, and user.

•    Encryption of signaling at Internet Gateway with Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) over Transport Layer Security (TLS) can also prove extremely beneficial.

•    Using VPNs for network connections by remote phones can prove effective.

•    Applying strong passwords to access the voicemail box can also work. A Strong password must be a mixture of upper case, lower case letters, and numerals involving special characters as well.

•    It is a best practice to delete sensitive voicemail messages.

•    Better to report anomalies on an immediate note. Here educating the VOIP service users before hand turns crucial.

If you have more such tips to share, you can use the comments section below.

Naveen Goud is a writer at Cybersecurity Insiders covering topics such as Mergers & Acquisitions, Startups, Cyber Attacks, Cloud Security and Mobile Security