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VOIP Phone Calls – How Private are They?
There’s a great deal of focus today on privacy and personal security, as well as company security. This is quite understandable in light of the numerous breaches which have been dominating the headlines in recent years, and causing serious financial loss, as well as loss of privacy for both citizens and businesses.
People no longer trust their government or some of the common companies they do business with to protect their personal information and keep it secure. Given all of this, it’s only natural that people should question the privacy of VoIP networks, and wonder if calls are being overheard, or perhaps even recorded without their knowledge.
Is Eavesdropping Possible?
In the context of whether or not it’s possible for a provider to listen in on any phone call made through VoIP technology, yes it is possible. However, it’s also possible for providers to listen in on your land lines, your mobile phones, your emails, and your texts – virtually all forms of communication can be intercepted and overheard by a third-party.
Since every VoIP call must travel over the provider’s network, it remains technically possible that your phone call could be listened to at some point. Protecting against this, are some very strict security laws as well as some privacy laws regarding voice communications. In most situations, it is even necessary for law enforcement personnel to acquire a warrant in order to intercept a phone call.
While it is certainly possible for VoIP providers to gather statistics on data usage for its clients, actually listening in on conversations would be a violation of the law, and would subject them to serious fines.
Even though you have the assurance that your VoIP provider would face serious consequences if they violated your privacy and listened to one of your phone calls, that doesn’t mean that it could never happen. That’s why it’s necessary for you to check on the security measures used by your provider, to make sure they are a highly reputable firm, and that they take security seriously.
To Prevent Eavesdropping
For most communication methods these days, the first line of defense for privacy is encrypting the information. That means you’ll need to have end-to-end encryption for your phone calls, both at the source and at the destination. Some companies are reluctant to implement encryption for several reasons though.
One of the primary concerns most companies have is that encryption will bog down their networks. There is some validity to this objection, because encrypting data will always increase the total packet size, which means that every encrypted call will need greater bandwidth in order to reach its destination. If your internal network is already operating somewhere near peak capacity, the additional load of encryption just might be enough to cause bottlenecks.
Encrypting will also add a small amount of time to the total time necessary for a packet to be transmitted over a network. Since any kind of delay can negatively affect the quality of a voice call, this slowdown could potentially cause quality issues.
However, the benefit provided by encryption is a powerful one, because it prevents unwanted interception by third parties trying to steal sensitive information. Even if someone were able to hijack your data packets, they would not be able to extract any useful information, and they would be obliged to move on to the next project, rather than trying to hack your encrypted data.
In general, VoIP calls are subject to most of the same types of threats that all computers are prone to. That means it’s necessary for you to take steps on your own to provide security for your calls, such as keeping your operating system updated, applying security patches, and installing apps which combat malware and viruses. It’s also a good idea to monitor your network routinely, looking for spikes in activity, or any other anomalies which don’t normally occur.
How Secure is Your Provider?
In terms of being more comfortable with your VoIP service provider, you should take it upon yourself to find out everything you can about their policies. You should know whether they encrypt all phone calls on their network, and you should be able to verify it through third parties or certifications.
Finding out about their other security measures such as firewalls, security software, and the physical security measures in place at their facility is also important. Another area that you should try to find out about even though it will be difficult, is the risk represented by your provider’s employees.
It’s an unfortunate truth that the biggest security risks in any company are its employees, simply because they have access to all the sensitive data in their systems. Many of these security violations are even unintentional, with employees accidentally releasing information over the social media or in emails, where it can be picked up by watchful individuals.
It would be good to know that your service provider has policies in place to guard against employee risks. For the most part, any privacy threats to your VoIP phone calls are not likely to come from your service provider, but rather a third party. That means you can pretty much rest easy by checking on security measures used by your VoIP provider, and taking some basic security steps on your own end.