VoIP Fraud Takes Its Toll

VoIP toll fraud is increasing, largely because of the recession. As companies cut back on IT spending, they leave themselves even more vulnerable to hijackers, a situation that can end up more costly than securing a network in the first place.

Kelly Teal, Contributing Editor

July 1, 2009

3 Min Read
VoIP Fraud Takes Its Toll

VoIP toll fraud is increasing, experts say, and that’s largely because of the recession.

The bad economy has hit so many companies so hard that network security spending no longer is top of mind, a circumstance that just invites hackers. To that end, a recent vendor-funded study shows VoIP toll fraud remains among the fastest-growing problems facing operators and their customers, and observers agree.

Toll fraud happens when attackers infiltrate networks and call control systems, then hijack them to make long-distance and international phone calls. Sometimes they infiltrate carriers’ accounting systems; other times, they redirect inbound calls to a media gateway to gain unauthorized use of a VoIP network. The dangers rise when companies pare back IT spending.

“Many IT markets hit bottom in the first quarter of 2009, and the network security market felt the pinch, hitting its lowest level since early 2007,” explained Jeff Wilson, principal network security analyst for Infonetics Research. The cuts stemmed from budgeting delays, contraction in overall enterprise spending due to the bad economy and cautious carrier spending, Wilson added.

Infonetics expects the sector to return to third-quarter 2008 levels by the end of this year, but even then, that’s a long way to climb. Consider that, worldwide, network security appliance and software sales dropped a sequential 16 percent in the first quarter of 2009, to $1.23 billion. Similarly, Infonetics said on June 25, intrusion detection and prevention systems spending fell 21 percent in the same period, just after recording record revenue in the third and fourth quarters of 2008.

The situation leaves service providers vulnerable. And many will come under more attacks as they switch to IP infrastructure, said Richard Stiennon, security guru and founder of consultancy IT Harvest. With IP, he said, “there are more opportunities to do nasty things, so hackers might as well go for the gold.”

And aiming high they are, if recent Sipera Systems findings are accurate. The company, which makes security software for unified communications platforms, said in early June it has discovered “numerous” cases of vulnerabilities exploited for toll fraud. Enterprises and service providers alike are hit the hardest by the illegal activity, the cost of which can go as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a Sipera press release.

“We’d expected a correlation between growing awareness of VoIP and UC vulnerabilities and security best practices, and a decrease in toll fraud activity,” Adam Boone, Sipera’s marketing vice president, said in a prepared statement. “But we are finding the opposite, that toll fraud actually is on the rise.”

That’s true, said Stiennon. And the communications industry has seen this situation before, he said.

“We’re just repeating everything that’s happened in security,” he said. “Service providers have to deploy in the most effective way to get business started, then once the business is successful they start experiencing attacks.” Operators – and, businesses, when it comes to UC – then have to invest in tools to fight the attacks, Siennon added.

Read more about the tools and other resources needed to combat VoIP toll fraud. Click here or on the source link below.

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About the Author(s)

Kelly Teal

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Kelly Teal has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist, editor and analyst, with longtime expertise in the indirect channel. She worked on the Channel Partners magazine staff for 11 years. Kelly now is principal of Kreativ Energy LLC.

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