Batten down the hatches

Batten down the hatches

2006 was undoubtedly the year of VoIP. Wherever you looked, new VoIP installations were making the news.

What goes up must come down. Market analyst, IDC, reports VoIP market growth will slow down this year to about half the 2005 and 2006 growth rates.

Don't go ringing any alarm bells yet, however. The good news for vendors and the channel is that IP phone and IP PBX revenue is expected to continue growing as larger sites start to come on-board. IDC fi gures suggest 14.49 per cent growth to reach $606.76 million in 2010 with vendors such as Cisco, Avaya, Nortel and Alcatel leading the way. The total market revenue of Australian VoIP services, including managed/hosted VoIP and IP Centrex, will increase to $462.12 million in 2010.

Keep it secure

With VoIP appearing inside an increasing number of businesses, it's become a tantalizing target to hackers. As some commentators observe, IT security is an important topic at the best of times, but even more so when the technology in question is replacing the world's most resilient and available communications network.

"VoIP is much more involved than just providing a voice solution that works," Integ Communications CEO, Ian Poole, said. "It's actually part of an overall service which secures the data infrastructure plus any other applications and devices connected up. At the end of the day, it's the end-to-end securing of the network."

The issue of security comes into play with an increasing number of technologies converging on the average business network, NSC Group managing director, Craig Neil, said. "VoIP security is the biggest question we now get asked about when putting solutions together for customers," he said, "particularly as we're seeing a lot more network-centric technology coming into play; it's not just IP telephones on desks." In addition to IP phones, applications such as soft phones - software for making telephone calls over the Internet - and the integration of voice into applications such as Microsoft Outlook were creating a whole slew of security concerns as more potential weak links were introduced into network infrastructure, Neil said.

Last year, Sydney-based integrator, Integ, compiled a whitepaper for businesses on major VoIP security threats, including how to identify them and adopting an effective security plan to stop them in their tracks.

The key was to secure all elements affected by VoIP - from the handset through to the desktop and LAN.

"Security remains one of the main issues when people look at IP telephony solutions," Poole said. "It's become extremely high profile now and a wider issue."

Fortinet country manager, Charlie Cote, agreed that as interest rose, the threat to VoIP networks was also growing exponentially, particularly for SMEs.

The kinds of exploits used by hackers and other malicious Internet users to target anything from SMBs to the largest of enterprises can vary from denial of service attacks, spam over IP, viruses and worms, eavesdropping and toll fraud. "A client of ours was hit by toll fraud, where someone got into the voice messaging system and into the management of the system to call in and call out," Integ's Poole said. "Now, to do that you need to be able to access the password, and password protection is such a simple thing that it could have been avoided altogether."

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