When you think of companies’ security vulnerabilities, what do you think of? If you’re like most people, you likely think of companies’ databases getting hacked by master cyber criminals. This is a persistent image in pop culture, and our perception of “hackers” is typically of highly intelligent, isolated technologists who break through firewalls like safe crackers break into vaults.
However, it’s more common that hackers are simply extortionists and opportunities, taking advantage of easy targets whenever they can. Think of them as burglars checking houses for unlocked doors, rather than experienced criminals spending their time cracking high-security locks. Accordingly, some of the most common security vulnerabilities fall by the wayside.
For example, telecommunications vulnerabilities represent a $38 billion threat; are you and your telecom systems the proverbial “unlocked door” that’s ready for hackers to exploit?
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It may seem strange that telecommunications systems are the target of cybercriminals, but there are a handful of exploits here that make telecom such an easy target. For starters, telecom is a highly important area for many businesses. It’s required to be an “always on” service, and has enormous data requirements, so that makes it a potentially lucrative target for a denial of service attack. Essentially, cybercriminals can take down your telecom system and hold it hostage in exchange for payment.
Telecom is also a primary target because it’s a prime way to gather information—both on your business and its customers. Hackers who gain access to your telecom systems may be able to covertly listen into conversations, recording personal data for future exploitation.
Another major vulnerability of business telecom systems is their susceptibility to voicemail fraud. In this scheme, a potential hacker experiments with different phone numbers, attempting to access their voicemail systems by trying out default provider passwords, or easy combinations like 1234. Because default provider passwords are easy to guess, and many people never change them, it’s relatively easy to break into someone’s voicemail box. From there, the hacker changes the outgoing message to one that accepts charges, then places a collect call to that number. When connected, the charges are accepted, and hackers can then exploit this connection to place exorbitantly expensive calls, racking up charges for the business account.
Practical Tips to Mitigate Risk
So what can you do to protect your telecom systems from these risks?
Train your employees. First, train your employees on basic best practices for telecom security. Most vulnerabilities are a result of a simple employee oversight, such as failing to change a default voicemail password, or falling victim to a phishing scheme. Holding a workshop or seminar that instructs your employees to be wary of the signs of a telecom attack, and to avoid falling victim to a hacking attempt, can protect your business against a number of potential threats.
Use the right telecom system. Understand that not all telecom providers offer the same level of security. Today, cloud-based telecom systems are popular, but not all cloud systems offer the same type of encryption or protection. Do your research in advance, and go with the provider who can offer you the greatest level of ongoing security. When paired with employee knowledge, this strategy can help you prevent most common attacks.
Change your passwords regularly. When a hacker obtains or guesses your password, your entire system is compromised. Thankfully, there’s an easy ongoing step that can prevent this from ever occurring: changing your passwords regularly. Change default phone passwords the moment you get them, never accept a “weak” password that’s easy to guess, and change those passwords again in a few months.
Prevent voicemail fraud. Finally, take measures to prevent voicemail fraud. Teach your employees to look for the signs that their voicemail has been hacked, and pay attention to any new charges that raise red flags.
Telecom is an exceptionally vulnerable component of your business, but now that you’re aware of the dangers, you can take actions to protect it. Thankfully, most telecom attacks are simple exploitations of vulnerabilities, and can be guarded against with basic proactive measures. The more proactive you are, and the more seriously you take the telecom risk, the better you’ll be able to protect yourself.