The Quick Start Guide to VOIP for the Home, Home Office, and Small Business

What are the Risks of VOIP Security?

You've heard about eavesdropping, or "phone taps" on regular phone lines (the PSTN).

Most people know that this kind of activity is possible, but rarely worry about it.

But all of us worry about viruses, hackers, spam, and general violations of our personal computer space. So, when it comes to broadband internet telephone service, or VOIP, how secure are we?

There are a number of security issues associated with VoIP.

VOIP Data is Susceptible to Hacking and  Eavesdropping

VOIP data on the Internet is the same as any other kind of data. Determined hackers can retrieve this data with the right software tools. Potentially, hackers can retrieve and record entire conversations, and other user information.

BUT, how likely this will happen in the future is a matter of some debate. Consider that VOIP phone calls may be as secure as cell phone calls. While it is possible to intercept and listen in to these calls, there is some determined effort required.

Remember that consumer VOIP at this time is encoded, not encrypted. Encoding means the data stream is modified to a certain standard. If you know what the standard is (i.e. the codec used to digitize the analog voice), then conceivably you could decode the data stream. Encryption on the other hand requires a "key" to unlock the data. Only the intended receiver would have access to the key.

VOIP Data Can Potentially Transport Viruses

Like other kinds of data that transport viruses, VOIP data streams could potentially be used in the same way, overloading VOIP networks causing delays and reduction in sound quality.

There have been no major incidents yet of this type of virus attack.

VOIP Can be Used to Transmit Spam

Spam, or SPIT (Spam over Internet Telephony), refers to unwanted telemarketing calls from companies trying to sell services or products.

At this time, it is unlikely that unscrupulous spam artists will be targeting VOIP users. More than likely, they'll be using VOIP like everybody else to make cheap calls to landlines.

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