Could your business cope if your phone lines were hacked?

Posted 3 months ago

Businesses should be aware that their telephone systems are just as susceptible to malicious attacks as their computer network, if not more so.

Attacks may come from one person or it may be thousands of people. They may be using software or doing it manually but they are spending all day and every day attempting to hack into your systems.

While many organisations have a firewall to protect their computer network from illegal access, telephone lines are not always as well protected. And if someone is hacking into the phone system, you may not know it is happening.

By the law of averages they might eventually get into your system. It happens several times a day, somewhere.

All they need is access to phone lines. Anything that connects your phone system to the outside world provides access for the hackers – whether it’s making a phone call, through voice mail or if your telephone system is connected to the internet (whether for diagnostic or VoIP purposes).

There are three main reasons for hackers to strike. They may use a phone system to connect a call they have charged for, between two innocent parties anywhere in the world – at your expense; they might own a premium rate phone number, calls to which earn them commission – and use your lines to repeatedly make inbound calls to that number, or another innocent party’s number before then routing to their Premium Rate Number; or they may just wish to be malicious.

All businesses are vulnerable but there are steps to take to mitigate the risk.

Almost everyone gets their bills online and your online billing will allow you to set alerts to flag up phone use that is out of the ordinary. It may be calls are being made from your phones at odd times, such as outside office hours between 8pm and 8am or at weekends when the office is closed. You can set up an alert so that you are sent an email when such a call is made – a very quick way to tell if something is happening or about to happen.

You can also (almost) completely prevent the risk of hacking, by having a firewall installed. A typical firewall will cost about £1,000 for most phone systems. If you have a call logger on the system, switch it on. Many people don’t bother. You can also insure against a hack attack, but a lot of businesses play the odds and decide they don’t need to bother.

But how vulnerable would your business be if it were hacked? Could it afford to pay for calls made over a single weekend that runs into the tens of thousands?

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