VoIP hacking is not new. Like normal hacking, it’s been around since the inception of Voice over IP – largely because hacking into a VoIP system is exactly the same as hacking into any web-based network.
“Hacking has become incredibly sophisticated – it’s actually become an industry of its own,” says Jacques du Toit, MD of Vox Orion. “Every time a new product is developed that is based on Internet access, hackers find a way to commit fraud through it.” Of course, this means that Internet security protocols have become far more sophisticated as well, as companies seek to combat hackers.
VoIP hackers have one of two aims: they either want to piggy-back on a company’s VoIP line indefinitely, which means they need to blend in to avoid detection, or they want to get in and out as quickly as possible, making as much money along the way as possible.
“The two approaches are quite different,” says Du Toit. “In the first, calls will mimic the company’s natural calls. They will be the same length as average calls. No calls will be made after hours, and they will be to the same areas as the company calls. The second hacker is very different. Their aim is to get in and ring up incredibly high bills as quickly as possible. They aren’t trying to hide their tracks, so the emphasis is making lots of money, quickly.”
How? VoIP hackers resell phone calls. For example, they piggy back on a line and resell the open line at a cheaper rate. “For example, if a call to Cambodia costs R25 per minute, the hacker will sell the call for R15 per minute – the hacker makes their money, but the company that the line is stolen from pays the full R25 a minute – for calls they aren’t making,” explains Du Toit.
So how can companies protect themselves from spending thousands on calls they aren’t making? “First, choose your vendor carefully,” advises Du Toit. “Your vendor should have strong security protocols in place.” These include anti-hacking security on the hardware involved (routers and gateways) as well as the ability to maintain lines and spot unusual activity.
“Hackers look for open ports with no security,” says Du Toit. “If they find one, they simulate an extension and use the network for free. So, your service provider should be able to keep them out.” Du Toit also advises companies to ask their service provider what happens if they are hacked. “As long as the hacker got in through our system, and not an open port elsewhere on the company’s network, we will not make our clients pay for hacked calls,” says Du Toit.
The second security measure should be daily monitoring. “Hackers that are trying to blend in are much harder to spot, but the hackers who come in to make as much as possible as quickly as possible can be picked up through daily monitoring and shut down. It’s important for service providers to be aware of what is happening on their clients’ networks,” Du Toit concludes.