How to Secure Your Unified Communications Deployment
A discussion of the various approaches that organizations can take to ensure the security of their data and to proactively fight against cyber attacks.
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With an increasing number of communication channels available, managers are struggling to keep on top of business communications. This is where unified communications comes in.
It pulls things like video conferencing, team messages, email, etc. and funnels them into one manageable system. The benefit of unified communications includes better oversight, increased worker productivity, and more. Because of its efficiency, UC and technology like VoIP is predicted to become a popular tool for communication and collaboration for development teams in the coming years.
However, with emerging technology, there are always going to be problems hackers and criminals try to exploit. According to the Communications Control Fraud Association survey, the telecommunications industry had $38.1 billion in fraudulent charges in 2016.
As you can see from the figures in the image above, $7.46 billion of these charges were the result of either PBX hacking, or IP PBX hacking. Since unified communications is a central tenet of so many companies, it is essential that they should be properly secured.
In this guide, we’ve listed some of the most important things to consider before you deploy a unified communications platform. Let’s start at the beginning.
Develop a Unified Communications Security Plan
When you are faced with any problem, the first step is to properly assess the needs of your company. Every business functions differently so your security should cater to that. Take time to assess the specific needs of your company and its workers.
There are two UC security categories to address when creating a concrete plan – UC application security and UC infrastructure. UC application security means ensuring if the OS itself is equipped with it’s own security measures. Check if it has important components like a host intrusion prevention system, firewall, and secure access points.
UC infrastructure refers to the physical hardware and netwrok security. As UC is meant to connect all devices, a good precaution is to protect the hardware the data is transferred through and block third-parties from accessing it. This means securing routers, peripherals and wireless networks. Other programs such as firewalls and VPNs add extra layers of security, which will be unpacked next.
Implement Firewalls and SBC
One of the best ways to ensure the integrity of your network is through a firewall and Service Border Controls (SBC). Firewalls are meant to block malicious software or unauthorized entry of your network. Since all of your company’s means of communications are now accessible on-line, the possibility of losing privacy is higher
Hacking made up 60% of cyber breaches in 2017. Firewalls are your first wave of defense against hacking and data phishing. Firewalls can intercept various types of attacks like backdoor access and remote login hijacking, among others.
Think of firewalls as security checkpoints, they prevent and alert you when a potential threat is detected. You can establish multiple network security perimeters to secure your network.
However, there is some debate on whether firewalls alone are enough. After all, these can occasionally be bypassed. Chief Technology Officer at Sonus, Kevin Riley, suggests taking security to the next level and utilizing Service Border Controls (SBC). These controls are more intelligent than firewalls and do a better job of assessing real-time communication threats.
Use Strong Passwords
Like all communication tools, the security of the unified communication systems depends on those using it. The 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DIBR) found that 80% of hacking breaches are tied to weak passwords.
Many people use easy to remember, but weak passwords for their devices and other systems. Encourage employees to use strong and hard to crack passwords. A set of minimum requirements through password management can be put in place to ensure this occurs. For example, a password might need to be at least ten characters long and include numbers, symbols, and capitalized letters.
With the rise of bring your own device (BYOD) policies, employees are increasing channels for cyberattacks to take place. When using BYOD policies, consider enforcing two-factor authentication to secure their sign-on processes. These are just some of the things to consider when creating a data protection policy for employees.
Offload Unnecessary Services
Unified communication systems come with a bundle of different functions that are meant to improve productivity and workflow. However, based on your business, you may end up not needing every single feature.
A tip to ensure security is offloading unused features. Since these specific features aren’t used often, we tend to forget about them, and they fall by the wayside. This opens the door to potential hacking since they are unmonitored and unprotected. Removing them lessens the channels that security threats can use to tap into your unified communication system and cloud host PBX.
Protect Remote Workers With VPN
Regardless of if you’re managing a multinational or working with a small business, some of the time, staff will access your system remotely. When managing remote teams, it’s still your responsibility to make sure that their communications are safe.
Unified communications and the Internet of Things (IoT) has allowed companies the ability to work from any corner of the globe on any device. But this does come with its risks. Remote workers who access your system through public and/or unsecured WiFi can be seen as open windows for hackers, granting them easy access into private company networks.
This is where Virtual Private Networks (VPN) come in handy. A VPN is a service that secures information shared between companies or individuals.
Source: Mobile App Daily
VPNs are a much needed online privacy solution for remote workers, especially if your organization utilizes cloud file sharing. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the number of VPN users grew 165% from 2017-2018. There are all kinds of affordable and effective VPN providers for remote workers. It is essential that, as a company, you agree on which service to use, and notify all employees of their obligation to do so.
Keep Programs Up-to-Date
Every program needs thorough and up-to-date maintenance. Software updates give you up-to-date fixes for previously vulnerable sectors of your data. Cybersecurity software companies are constantly improving their technology to match the changing nature of cyber attacks.
With constant advancements of robotic process automation and other business softwares, it’s vital to secure your data while working more efficiently. You can do this by always keeping your security up-to-date. With a secure set-up, your unified communication system will be less vulnerable to expensive hacks that could cost hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars.
When updating security systems, there are two areas to focus on, the first is maintaining and enhancing your Information Security Management Systems (ISMS). This means adding security policies and procedures, management control, and continuous review and analysis of the risk register. Managing security should be done on a rolling basis to prevent ongoing and evolving cyber attacks.
The second step is to keep your Configuration Databases (CMDB) regularly maintained and strengthened. In the field of cybersecurity the goal is enforcing preventative measures. Set-up clear responsibilities in maintaining CMDB to avoid weak spots in your database infrastructure.
Regularly Monitor Call Logs
Phishing and scam calls affect businesses of all sizes as well as the general public. Unified communications can be susceptible to unnoticed scam or phishing calls. Some hackers even tap into the cloud storage systems and use them as a front for various illicit activities like scam calls.
Call centers are especially vulnerable to these types of attacks. According to the Aite Group, account takeover losses will reach around $775 million this year.
These potential threats generally start small. The goal is to handle these issues before they spiral out of control. These can be prevented from becoming an even bigger problem by regularly monitoring call logs. Diligently monitoring what is happening within your system ensures that you can stop a potential issue the second it is detected.
Creating a clear and concise security policy for UC systems is often overlooked and leaves many companies vulnerable to data breaches. Assess your companies needs, hardware, and networks to find potential weak spots that can be addressed when deploying the right security measures. From there, you can start seeking the ideal software by thoroughly researching different providers and exploring alternatives to Dialpad, Mitel, and other similar companies.
One of the keys in cybersecurity is enforcing preventive measures and stopping cyber attacks before they happen. This involves checking infrastructure while also providing employees with the right tools and software to protect their devices and data. Remember to regularly maintain data and security systems to ensure they’re always performing at the highest standard.
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