Privacy – Do VoIP Providers Listen to your Calls?

Posted on: 2018-05-11 | Categories:VoIP Services

Privacy and security issues tend to dominate the headlines these days. Most consumers and even enterprises are concerned about who has their data and how it is being used. After the recent revelations about the widespread surveillance of the US government on its own citizens, people are sitting up and taking notice. Gone are the days when users trusted companies or even the government to protect their privacy.

Consumers and businesses now realize the need to secure every piece of the communication channel – software, hardware, networks, and service providers. Since most organizations use VoIP for internal and external communication, we need to question if VoIP is as secure and private as vendors claim.

Can VoIP Providers Listen to your Calls?

If you are considering technical capability, it is apparent that service providers have the means to listen in on conversations by their users. However, it’s true for landlines, mobile phones, and every other type of communication. Once an email, text or call leaves the device in your hands, it is open to interception by outside parties.

Every VoIP call has to travel over the provider’s network at some point. Most in-network calls don’t touch the PSTN or even the public internet. When it comes down to it, the fact remains that your service provider can listen to calls on their network.

But Do They Actually Listen to Calls?

This is precisely why most countries have strict privacy and security laws surrounding voice communication. In many cases, even law enforcement authorities require warrants to intercept calls. VoIP service providers may collect data about network usage or calls to monitor quality and maintain certain service standards. But to actually eavesdrop on customer communication would get them into trouble with the authorities.

However, that doesn’t mean every VoIP vendor is trustworthy or adequately secures their network against security breaches. Before you select a provider for your business, you should check their security measures. It’s plainly not enough if your own software and equipment are secured. Once a call, message or text leaves the company network, it is vulnerable to outside threats.

What Can You Do to Prevent Eavesdropping?

The first line of defense for most communication methods is encryption. It is vital to have end-to-end encryption for your phone calls. What this means is that every phone call is encrypted at its source and decrypted at the destination. Unfortunately, many companies hesitate to implement encryption for a number of reasons.

The biggest fear is that encryption will slow down the network. There is a cost attached to encryption – it adds to the total packet size. So every encrypted call will require more bandwidth. If your network is already at peak capacity, it may not be able to handle the additional load.

Encrypting calls will also increase the time it takes for individual packets to travel over the network. Voice calls are time sensitive – even a delay of a few seconds can drastically affect audio quality.

In spite of these costs, encryption prevents unauthorized people from stealing sensitive data. Even if someone intercepts calls on your network, they cannot extract useful information. Most hackers will move on to some other victim instead of wasting time trying to hack the encryption.

VoIP calls are vulnerable to many of the same threats as computers and other computing devices. So normal security measures like updating the OS, applying security patches, and using anti-malware apps are effective tools against hackers, criminals, and even your service provider if need be. You should also monitor your network for anomalies, unusual spikes in traffic or changes in regular patterns. These are powerful indicators that something is wrong with the system.

Evaluate the Security Measures of your Provider

It is important to verify information provided to you by the service vendor. Do they encrypt all phones calls on the network? Can you verify that statement through independent audits or certifications? Also ask them about other security measures like firewalls, the use of security software, physical security at their data center, and other avenues of breaches.

The biggest security and privacy risks in any company are the people who work there. Insider threats are harder to uncover since employees generally have legitimate reasons to access company data. The insider threat doesn’t have to be deliberate. An employee may inadvertently reveal information on social media or fall victim to social engineering tactics. Therefore it’s crucial to have policies and procedures in place to regulate the conduct of workers.

At the end of the day, users have more to fear from unauthorized parties intercepting their calls rather than their service provider. While they can listen to your calls, in theory, few reputed vendors would undertake such illegal actions. By all means, secure your network properly but you don’t have to worry about the vendor eavesdropping on your business communication.