Before long, VOIP systems will be filled with spam, open to hackers and taken down by worms. But security, infrastructure and VOIP vendors say it's important to get ahead of the curve, and they encouraged enterprises to consider security first when implementing VOIP systems in a panel Wednesday at Ziff Davis Media's online Virtual Tradeshow on security.
"We've already seen instances where good-size enterprises had their VOIP infrastructures taken down by a worm," said Chris Thatcher, national practice leader at Dimension Data Holdings, a global IT services firm based in Reston, Va.
"There's been a lack of security in the design and development of VOIP [voice over IP] systems, and buyers aren't taking security concerns into consideration," Thatcher said.
Enterprises instead have focused almost exclusively on price, features and performance, often leaving new VOIP systems open to threats.
According to panelist Andrew Graydon, vice president of technology at security firm BorderWare Technologies Inc., those risks include the common security breaches that enterprises deal with today, including DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks, malicious code, spoofing and phishing.
But enterprises also need to look out for unique-to-VOIP threats such as eavesdropping and "VBombing," where hundreds or thousands of voice mails can be quickly left on a single VOIP console.
Graydon said vendors are loath to admit that these weaknesses exist, let alone that they've already been exploited.
"It's such a new market, no one wants to scare the consumer," he said. "But I can already go onto hacking Web sites and find script for attacks [on VOIP systems]."
Graydon said a bulk of those attacks can be accomplished at the application layer, which for most major vendors is based on SIP (Session Initiation Protocol). Firewalls and VPNs can adequately handle transport-layer security for VOIP, but he compared SIP with SMTP and HTTP for Web and e-mail applications, which were largely ignored until security issues arose.
"All of the vulnerabilities that exist for e-mail also exist for VOIP," Graydon told eWEEK.com prior to the panel. "Let's not make the same mistakes." He said Ontario-based BorderWare is working with major VOIP vendors and telcos to install the company's SIPAssure firewall appliance.
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