How to ensure communication security while working from home

July 8, 2020
VoIP telephony can address threats that challenge business operations leveraging at-home workers

The spread of COVID-19 has altered our way of life in so many ways. With lockdown orders in place across the UK,and in the United States, many businesses will have had to work quickly in order to ensure as many of their staff can work from home as possible. Internet-based communications will likely be common for office workers but providing staff with the infrastructure to access their work network from home may not have been. Working from home brings a number of challenges but one that may not be at the forefront of most workers’ minds is data security.

From online gatecrashers to opportunistic phishers, there are countless safety concerns cropping up during lockdown. For businesses of all kinds understanding how secure our methods of remote communication are and what to do to keep them safe will be an essential part of surviving the shutdown period.

Video Conferencing Security

Zoombombing, the act of invading a Zoom call without invitation, has led to a number of aggressive acts, including indecent exposure. Additionally, there are reports of lists of meeting IDs from the video conferencing app which malicious actors can use to break into potentially sensitive online meetings.

These concerning reports show that video conferencing software is not always secure and that those carrying out sensitive meetings online should take measures to ensure the safety of their communications. Zoom recently announced that all meetings would in future be password protected, giving businesses more confidence when using the software. Adding multi-factor authentication to online video conferencing is a quick and effective way to stay protected, whether your conversations are sensitive or not.

Is VoIP Secure?

While it’s true that internet-based phone calls aren’t completely safe from breaches, the same can be said of traditional phone lines. Unlike emails and other, more permanent means of internet communication, VoIP calls have no established start point until the call begins which is gone as soon as the call ends. In contrast, emails are stored for a long time and organized by date, meaning those who gain access can easily navigate through conversation history. This means that internet-hosted calls are actually likely to be a safer method of communication than email, the most prolific means of online contact in business.

Some ways staff can ensure the security risks of VoIP calls are reduced even further include strong password protocols and multi-step authentication. This will be especially important for those accessing app-based VoIP software on personal mobiles as these devices typically have much lower levels of protection. Additionally, VoIP providers may be able to offer extra layers of encryption to keep communications safe in transit, reducing the chance of communications being intercepted while in progress. Enforcing business-wide call caps can also help to identify suspicious behavior should any login credentials be compromised, and this will also help reduce the monetary impact of any such break-in.

The Benefit of Cloud-Based Phone Systems

In addition to calls being much cheaper, there are a number of other benefits to VoIP telephony for businesses. Considering the current situation, VoIP technology is highly scalable, meaning that the service can be rolled out to a large number of workers quickly and remotely. Additionally, many VoIP service providers store all business call data securely at a centralized location. This removes the need to store this data on personal devices like phones and laptops which may not have strong security protections, keeping data safe even with all staff working from home.

VoIP-hosted calls are usually anonymized, which helps to keep the identity of callers safe from those who gain access to the system. However, this anonymity can be exploited, as malicious actors who do gain access aren’t always easy to identify. This means VoIP systems are vulnerable to distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which incapacitate VoIP systems with a perpetual ‘busy signal’. This can result in lost productivity which could last hours, depending on how long it takes for your provider to resolve the issue. However, many VoIP providers will have steps in place to avoid DDoS attacks, so finding out more about this from your provider can help you understand the threat to your business.

VoIP telephony, like all internet communications, is not guaranteed to be secure at all times. However, given the mass move to home working, VoIP calls give office workers a vast amount of flexibility while also providing a number of security features that make their use safer than video conferencing and email. No matter what methods of virtual interaction your business is using, the risks of insecure communication are too great to ignore at this moment in time. Taking extra steps to raise awareness with staff and ensure everyone is following best practices will help keep business safe as long as lockdown continues.

About the author: This article was written by Damon Culbert from Criterion Systems, VoIP provider in the UK.

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