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Feds Raise Caution Flag On VoIP Phone Systems

Thinking of deploying a VoIP phone system to save money? A federal agency charged with promoting technology says you should proceed cautiously because of security risks when deploying VoIP phone systems.

Thinking of deploying a VoIP phone system to save money? A federal agency charged with promoting technology says you should proceed cautiously because of security risks when deploying VoIP phone systems.In its recent report, Security Considerations for Voice Over IP Systems, the National Institute of Standards and Technology says VoIP shows promise for lower cost and greater flexibility, but its very different architecture than circuit-switched telephony creates significant security issues. "Administrators may mistakenly assume that since digitized voice travels in packets, they can simply plug VoIP components into their already-secured networks and remain secure," the report says. "However, the process is not that simple."

Implementing common security measures into VoIP, such as firewalls and encryption, can cause poor voice quality and blocked calls if not done carefully and with the proper equipment, the NIST report says, adding that designing, deploying, and securely operating a VoIP network is a complex effort that requires careful preparation.

NIST recommends developing appropriate network architecture, including separate voice and data networks where feasible and practical; ensuring that the organization can manage and mitigate risks to their information, system operations, and continuity of essential operations when deploying VoIP systems; employing and routinely testing the security features included in VoIP systems; and updating VoIP software regularly and frequently. Because worms, viruses, and other malicious software are common on PCs connected to the Internet, NIST suggests agencies avoid using so-called softphone systems that implement VoIP using a PC with a headset and special software.

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