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Voice mail fraud: What you need to know and how to protect your business

August 15, 2012 / Peter Eisengrein

The advent of social media has made the sharing of pictures, videos, and other media incredibly easy and, most of all, free. So it’s hard to believe that there are still voice mail hackers breaking into voice mail systems in order to make free calls. But it does happen. And when it does, your business is left stuck with the phone bill, or worse.

Voice mail hacking was at the heart of the scandal that has unraveled several major publications at News Corp, and led to media mogul Rupert Murdoch resigning from the board. If voice mail hacking can undo one of the most powerful men in media, just think about what it could do to your business.

By educating yourself on how these hackers can get into your system, you can spot the signs and put protection in place. Read on for an explanation of how voice mail hacking works and how it can be prevented.

How it happens
The simplicity of voice mail fraud is what makes it so dangerous — it happens quickly and often goes unnoticed. The most popular times for a voice mail hack to take place are on weekends, holidays, or any other time after normal business hours.

The hacker dials into several voicemail boxes either directly or through an auto attendant. Then he simply guesses a series of numbers until he strings together an insecure password associated with a voice mail box. This is known as a simple dictionary attack or brute-force attack.

The best protection is the simplest
Now that you know that all a hacker needs to do is guess an insecure password, you can probably predict what the best protection is: a strong password. The indicators of a strong password should be common sense. You’re looking for length, complexity, and unpredictability. Yet many employees overlook the simplest method of protection and make common mistakes when it comes to setting their password. You should never set your password as your extension number, “0000,” “1111,” “1234,” or “123456.”

When it comes to choosing secure a password, the best weapon is length. Make sure your password is at least six characters long. In fact, each additional character increases security tenfold. But don’t stop at changing your password. Users that have been hacked before are frequent targets for future attacks, so we encourage businesses to be as vigilant as possible by taking these simple precautions:

  • Use password expirations. This forces users to change their password on a regular basis.
  • Only allow international calling for those that really need it.
  • Disable auto attendant access to voice mail after hours.
  • If you suspect fraudulent activity, change the user’s password and contact your service provider immediately.

Voice mail hacking has been around as long as voice mail itself, and there’s no guarantee that you will be able to completely protect yourself from a malicious attack. But the good news is the best protection is simple and free.

Categories: Security & Compliance
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