Secure VoIP: What you need to know

VoIP is more secure than PSTN, especially when encrypted.

Anyone who has ever heard a strange click on the line has probably joked that the government is listening in on their conversation. While that's not altogether impossible, it's fairly improbable if you're discussing, say, the Grammy Awards.

For some organizations, however, phone espionage is a very real concern. These include government organizations, military research and design companies and businesses that regularly share sensitive data over the phone.

Chances are, many of these organizations have already made the switch to VoIP, and most likely have a secure solution. What exactly does this mean? How does it stack up against traditional telephony? Let's take a closer look: 

VoIP is safer than PSTN, hands down

First and foremost, it's important for organizations to understand that in many ways, VoIP is inherently safer than traditional phone lines, and is much harder to intercept. According to TechTarget contributor Steven Taylor, traditional phones lines can be tapped with a little bit of telephony know-how and tools that can be purchased at a hardware store.

VoIP, on the other hand, is a tougher nut to crack. Taylor noted that in IP telephony, voice travels as data packets "are buried deep inside a sophisticated protocol stack," and is therefore harder to isolate and decode than a conversation occurring over a traditional phone line. Interception, at best, is extremely difficult, but not impossible. 

According to a new report from independent researcher Paul Moore, there is a simpler workaround for VoIP phones that ship with default passwords or none at all. In theory, a hacker could make and receive calls, play recordings, eavesdrop and more. Even in this scenario, the issue is limited to a select few VoIP providers. Once authentication has been established, the exploit is moot.

Any data that travels over the Internet can be encrypted, voice included.Any data that travels over the Internet can be encrypted, voice included.

Encryption for those who need it

At the end of the day, VoIP is still transmitting data over the Internet, and this data is still subject to some vulnerability, albeit to even a lesser degree than traditional phone lines. Nevertheless, as long as the potential exists, critical industries and high-level organizations shouldn't slouch on security. It's a long shot, but the last thing a company wants is for a third-party to listen in on calls in which Social Security numbers, credit card data, and other information that is highly valued on the Dark Web is shared.  

"High-level organizations shouldn't slouch on security."

According to TechTarget contributor Chris Partsenidis, it's recommended that organizations encrypt voice calls when they're on the local network and when they travel across the Web. He noted two specific types of encryption: Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Real-Time Transport Protocol (SRTP). The former encrypts communications between a server and a Web browser, and the latter safely transports voice and video over an IP network. 

"To maximize the VoIP encryption methods, it is recommended to use TLS in conjunction with SRTP on all VoIP equipment,"  Partsenidis writes. "This setup ensures both SIP signaling and voice/video sessions are properly encrypted and safe from prying eyes." 

The result is a military-grade VoIP solution that ensures the total privacy of phone conversations. 

In Summary

The sad reality of the world we live in is that anything can be hacked, breached or intercepted these days, and as long as there's something to be gained from it, someone out there will find a way to make it happen.

That said, organizations must do what they can to prevent this from happening, and this includes relying on secure VoIP solutions. The benefits of affordable, scalable voice features such as audio conferencing, mobile VoIP and more are that much better when you know they're also secured by encryption.