Technology is advancing at a steady rate, constantly changing the way businesses and individuals communicate in today’s marketplace. Formerly, switching from a legacy network to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) lowered the costs and reduced the delays associated with long-distance calling, which enabled greater global outreach.
Currently, the need for faster connections and more bandwidth has spurred the increased adoption of Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE) networks. However, the next big change in business communication will involve Voice over Mobile Broadband (VoMBB), and knowing what to expect can help companies make the transition.
VoMBB is essentially the process of connecting cellular calls over mobile broadband networks like LTE and WiFi. As more businesses continue to deploy cost-saving flexibility through remote work stations and an enlarged mobile workforce, broadband requirements have increased.
However, since massive, commercialized LTE networks are widespread, VoMBB will utilize that availability to escalate the speed and quality of voice and data transmissions, offering enhanced services for a variety of organizations.
Maintaining data protection is always a top priority. Although utilizing a public network to transmit voice data involves heightened risks, security concerns will be addressed as they were for VoIP. Encryption and authentication support provided by Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and H.323 protocols will offer businesses the cost benefits of VoMBB with familiar methods of protection.
To combat the lag time created by over-the-top (OTT) apps like Skype, VoMBB providers will need to develop relationships with OTT app developers. This change will also provide an opportunity for businesses. Mobile carriers will be able to structure voice and data transmission costs according to specific usages, which will provide businesses with enhanced regulation metrics. By monitoring this type of data transfer, improved efficiency and cost controls can be enacted.
In addition to the internal controls that companies can develop by using VoMBB, providers will be able to utilize cloud resources for immediate activation. With voice over WiFi, providers are able to offer the VoLTE infrastructure required now, and then support high-speed packet access later. This lowers costs and delivers the mobility needed by today’s businesses.
As mobile workplaces expand and the number of users who need instant remote access to business information grows, changes in the way voice data is transmitted will continue to evolve. VoMBB will offer faster connections and greater bandwidth agility through the cloud, allowing providers to lower the costs and improve service capabilities. Businesses will reap the benefits of heightened capacity and mobilized solutions that enlarge profits and support growth.
Despite the increasing popularity and adoption of cloud services, many misperceptions still abound about their potential disadvantages. Companies considering a cloud service purchase should carefully sort through both the hype and the myths about cloud computing before making a purchasing decision.
Cloud misperceptions vary, but three primary myths have emerged that might cause IT decision makers to stop and reconsider their cloud purchase plans. However, the reality behind these myths should give buyers reassurance when it comes time to make a cloud decision.
The Data Center Death Knell Myth
With data and functionality increasingly moving to cloud services, IT employees may be concerned about being replaced by the very technologies they choose to deploy.
While this isn’t a completely unfounded concern, the reality is that cloud services are largely being adopted by younger and smaller companies that don’t already have in-house IT departments. The ability of the cloud to provide IT services that such companies would otherwise have to build from scratch is one of its primary advantages.
For companies that already have an established IT team, cloud services aren’t likely to steal away jobs anytime soon. Companies may move some of their data and processes, particularly storage, to the cloud, but most companies will continue to house critical data on private networks in a hybrid approach. In-house IT will continue to be needed to support private network operations.
The Security Myth
One of the most common and persistent misperceptions about the cloud is that it opens up companies to a variety of new security risks. The thought of having data leave the safety of the corporate security fortress and travel via potentially unprotected connections to a public cloud creates concern over attacks on a company’s critical data.
In reality, because of their singular focus on providing data services, cloud providers often have some of the best security experts on staff who focus entirely on predicting security vulnerabilities and protecting against attacks on client data.
The Data Black Hole Myth
Some companies worry that once they allow their data to transfer to a cloud service, they will lose control over it or have difficulty moving it or getting it back. This myth likely circulates because in the past, it had some truth to it. Making a cloud transition sometimes meant data was locked in with the chosen provider.
But trends surrounding this cloud concern are changing. Some of the larger cloud providers offer tools that make it easier to control and move data when the company chooses. Amazon’s Snowball appliance allows customers to easily migrate data, and Velostrata introduced an appliance that eases the migration of data to and from the public cloud.
Making an Informed Cloud Purchase
Cloud services provide many benefits to companies that want to improve their operations and increase efficiencies. IT decision makers have a responsibility to choose a cloud service that protects the company’s data assets and provides the right services for its users.
All technologies have pros and cons. Deciphering myth from reality surrounding security, data availability, and future IT employment can help decision makers make the right cloud choice.
Getting involved with the cloud is a popular proposition when looking at acquiring new technology. A company should consider how cloud technology relates to the business as well as current regulations before moving to the cloud.
Understand the Benefits of the Cloud
Businesses should first consider how a move to the cloud can be beneficial. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools, for example, enable employees to view customer interactions so that technicians, sales staff, and customer service agents are aware of how other employees interacted with a customer at certain intervals. Management can also more easily monitor employees from a single dashboard. These actions are difficult to replicate outside of a cloud service.
Understand Any Potential Negatives
Preparations should be made to understand what migration to the cloud will entail as well as what could potentially go wrong. For example, pieces of confidential customer data may be collected and stored in the cloud and will require protection. Confidential company data such as product costs and internal reports will exist in this tool as well, so internal security is also a consideration.
Other factors that should be investigated when searching for a cloud provider include the potential for customer data to be lost or compromised if the system is hacked as well as the actions a company would need to take if the cloud provider suffered a major outage.
Understand Cloud Provider Services
It is important to investigate what a cloud provider does to protect its clients. Pull data from the cloud provider from time to time so that backups are in place in the event that the relationship with the cloud provider ends or the provider takes much longer than the service agreement allows to resolve technical issues when they occur. If data can’t be exported easily from the beginning, that should be a red flag.
There is a lot of good that can come from the cloud. Capital expenses can be reduced or even eliminated and employees will be able to access their data in a variety of ways, among many other benefits. But it is important that a business makes preparations to transition to the cloud so that the company does not experience any pains while growing into the technology.
In the world of information security, keeping up with the constantly evolving threats to an organization’s sensitive information is akin to trying to hit a moving target. Rapidly growing and changing technologies inevitably bring about new security risks and vulnerabilities and present information security with a never-ending series of challenges.
Many organizations find that increasing security challenges come hand in hand with increasing costs. It is a vicious cycle that causes frustration and may necessitate a balancing act between security and profitability. A well-balanced information security strategic plan can greatly impact the cost effectiveness of an organization’s information security.
An information security strategic plan gives an organization a clear advantage by ensuring that everyone is on the same team and on the same page. When all the members of an organization know, understand, and follow the plan, the organization can:
- take measures to avoid security breaches;
- rapidly react to infractions so as to minimize damage and loss; and
- lay out infrastructure to support long-term security to accompany growth.
A Defensive Strategy
Well-funded attackers are always in a state of adaptation as they probe security measures for weaknesses, evaluate the results, and revise their strategies. If ignored, they will eventually find the weak spots in any defense. For this reason, it is imperative that cyber defenders and security specialists have a strategy in place to take proactive measures to be aware of hacking trends, watch for emerging discoveries of weaknesses, and anticipate potential exploitation of new technologies and operation platforms.
An Action Strategy
When an attack occurs, even the best static defenses can be circumvented given time. A well-planned strategy for active dynamic defenses allows an organization to implement contingency measures which will isolate the security breach and lock down vulnerable information assets. When a security breach occurs, there is no time to circle the wagons and discuss what to do. Time lost can mean information lost. An adequate information security strategic plan allows for rapid, effective responses to attacks.
A Progressive Strategy
Planning for future information security is a process based on anticipating the needs of an organization’s information system architecture in comparison with developing security systems and adversarial trends. A clear and concise vision of where an organization intends to go allows for the organization’s security measures to be provisioned and implemented with a minimum of unwanted duplication and waste. Knowing what is down the road allows an organization to seek out and build relationships with information security providers who can meet the organization’s future needs in a timely and efficient manner.
Beyond the walls of an organization, an information security strategic plan provides positive visibility within an industry or enterprise. Existing and prospective customers appreciate the reassurance that comes with knowing their business partners treat their information with utmost confidentiality and safeguard it against theft.
In just a few short years, industry experts predict that the Internet of Things (IoT) will have a tremendous growth explosion. By the year 2020, research suggests 30 billion devices will be connected in a $3 trillion marketplace. Assuring that this avalanche of data is protected by layers of security is paramount to the industry’s success.
Soon there will be homes where the front doors unlock with a smartphone, its temperature is controlled remotely, and even the oven is turned on by punching a code. “Smart homes” are already on the technological horizon, but the security features must keep pace for viability.
Consumers own many devices that are not just unencrypted, but with marginal to non-existent security features enabled. Some end users leave the factory-set passwords in place, making illegally accessing a device’s data mere child’s play for the average hacker.
Making IoT Devices Secure
Certain qualities are required in order to make the security on IoT devices effective. The security must:
- Possess cloud capabilities
- Be platform agnostic
- Have the ability to facilitate IoT technological ecosystems
- Be lightweight
The ability to manage security via a cloud platform is a vital component to any implemented system. Cloud management enables manufacturers to patch changes to security configurations once a weak spot is detected – even after consumers purchase the device. The hardware itself can be tethered to private key exchanges to simplify authentication, provisioning, and configuration.
The benefits of utilizing agnostic security platforms are clear. Processing capabilities in IoT devices can enable them to be managed and controlled via the cloud. Transmitting large-scale changes in provisioning, authenticating, and configuring can also be handled at cloud level from a centralized location.
Compact IoT devices with security features embedded at the chip is a practical solution for securing data at the core of the device while still utilizing available space. IoT devices can have private keys already embedded to enhance security. This additional layer of security allows compromised components to be identified as “untrusted” and isolated from the other devices on the network. Default passwords would no longer be necessary once key exchanges are implemented within the hardware to authenticate each device. This also allows them to remain lightweight.
Issues to Overcome with IoT Devices
However, the lightweight, compact size of IoT devices limits the space available for security. Another drawback is the multiple levels of vulnerability when connecting devices or at the data host site of the chip. In addition, the limitations of the processing capabilities on devices manufactured by different companies creates security challenges. At present, consumers must use devices made by the same company in order to link them. Cloud-based connections reduce the necessity of standardizing the processing capabilities of IoT devices.
Most IoT devices aren’t currently enabled for cloud management, which is a potential security pitfall. When devices are all tethered to the cloud, it is a simple fix to patch security vulnerabilities – even when they are in the hands of end users. Devices can communicate more readily with one another when cloud capabilities have been implemented.
The bottom line is that the success of the IoT industry is dependent upon the security that is provided by the technology. To ensure that data protection remains a primary focus in an expanding market, networks and devices must be safeguarded. Enabling cloud management capabilities and security features embedded at the chip level can achieve these results.
Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) plans benefit a business by offering access to a cloud-based infrastructure that is tailored to their specific needs. However, many businesses are concerned with keeping their data safe with IaaS.
When subscribing to an IaaS plan, here’s how businesses can protect their sensitive data.
Awareness of What a Business Controls
Business users who subscribe to an IaaS plan should be aware of exactly what their plan entails. This includes the configuration of the infrastructure and how users will be able to access different data. By being aware of what they need to control, businesses will be knowledgeable and informed about the security of their plan.
It’s important to know who owns the data within the infrastructure. Understanding ownership details enables a business to navigate logistical situations and protect the organization against legal factors.
The Service Level Agreement
By understanding the Service Level Agreement (SLA), businesses help protect their data and intellectual property. An SLA is a fluid document and should be treated as such.
Complying With Regulations
In order to keep their IaaS secure, businesses need to be aware of industry regulations. Businesses should ensure that their IaaS provider is willing and able to work with them to fine-tune the management of processes and configuration capabilities.
Cloud hosting plans are completely virtual and not necessarily hosted within an organization, which means end user authentication can present a high security risk. Employees should keep login credentials private and be properly trained in authentication best practices. This doesn’t mean that end users should be inconvenienced or restricted; technology leaders should lead by example when establishing best practices, and businesses should find the balance between security and convenience for their users.
Monitor the Network
Even with the best security in the world, a business may run into issues with their IaaS if network monitoring is lacking. It is important to know and understand the network in order to catch unauthorized activity before it turns into a security breach. Monitoring the wireless infrastructure — especially as many users are now employing mobile devices to connect — will also prevent unauthorized users from accessing the cloud.
Employees aren’t always aware of how security holes can be created. Something as simple as accessing the infrastructure through a public Wi-Fi hotspot can create major security risks. Businesses can easily reduce these risks by training employees to understand how best to keep their connection secure.
Businesses must be aware of how their IaaS provider handles data backups, especially if using a new provider. Understanding the vendor’s redundancy procedures and being able to take action allows a business to protect their assets.
Data in Transit
Data moving between users, the data center, and the location of the IaaS systems can come under attack in different ways. In order to enhance security as much as possible, businesses must understand how this data moves.
Internal Unauthorized Activities
Users with authorization might still perform unauthorized activities. As well as ensuring that employees understand best practices, businesses should also ensure that the IaaS vendor has professional staff members and can control potential internal issues.
IaaS vendors assists with security strategies, but it never hurts for a business to have their own plans in place. By understanding their plan, monitoring their network, and ensuring that all staff members follow best practices, businesses have the ability to data safe.
Although there are better methods for securing communications, like printed newspapers, the password simply won’t concede defeat and pass into oblivion.
Despite the fact that we have become a society of connected users, the password is still the security method of choice as our last line of defense.
Resistance to other methods of personal identity security are fueled by our culture, one in which protecting our anonymity is paramount. We would rather be anonymous than secure, which is the driving reason we cling to a fixed character password – even if that password is as insecure as “password123.”
One method of identity protection available is called a digital cryptographic key. The digital key encrypts communications. However, due to our culture of anonymity, no one wants to use it. In fact, many people don’t employ encrypted e-mails, even in a corporate setting, because they fear an encrypted email will act as a beacon for hackers – a sign broadcasting, “This is an important communication, someone should try to infiltrate it.”
There have been countless opportunities in the past to implement transport protocols that would have encrypted all web traffic. Those methods, however, involved key-based encryptions – the encryption required certifications, which would establish identity. Developers, who understood that the majority of potential users would be too uncomfortable relinquishing online anonymity, did not pursue development.
Viable Options in a Mobile Environment
There are viable authentication systems available now, but these rely on identification. In the past, users could assert their identity through device ownership. However, increased mobility, multiple devices, and the evolution of workspaces into virtual constructs, has basically eliminated the practice of authentication through device ownership.
What it means
Although our culture makes it increasingly hard to discuss, securing communications through a system that identifies the user explicitly is a workable solution to security breaches. However, until our culture is ready to concede online anonymity, exploitations of data and information will continue as is – with security experts struggling to develop solutions as quickly as hackers create new threats.
As recently as a few years ago, entrepreneurs requiring computing solutions would have had little choice other than to make major IT investments. However, the advent of the cloud has changed the playing field, both for business owners and their customers.
Recent studies have quantified the impact cloud computing has had on global businesses; according to Gartner, a leading market research firm, cloud computing services generated over $150 billion in revenues in 2014.
The cloud offers a convenient and cost-effective alternative to traditional IT delivery methods, allowing entrepreneurs to access and customize software programs, data storage and backup services, and a wide range of other specialized functions and applications over the Internet.
Major benefits of the cloud include:
- Significant cost reductions – Cloud solutions reduce the need to purchase in-house hardware and software. The cloud also eliminates the need for physical storage and backup of files and documents.
- Scalability and flexibility – Cloud technologies can be upsized or downsized according to the changing needs of a business.
- IT savings – Cloud-based applications reduce resource or eliminate demands on in-house IT departments.
Cloud Computing Deployment Methods
Businesses seeking to take advantage of cloud computing have four main deployment methods available:
- Public cloud – This deployment model is easily accessible, hosted on the World Wide Web.
- Private cloud – Companies can create private clouds behind firewalls for added security.
- Community cloud – This model is a partnership of companies or organizations sharing the same private cloud space.
- Hybrid cloud – An emerging deployment approach that combines aspects of the private, public, and community cloud models, creating a customized, flexible solution.
Business Functions Supported by Cloud Computing
Cloud computing has a wide range of applications in the business world, but there are four primary ways in which the technology is used:
- File storage and data backup – Cloud computing has emerged as the most flexible and convenient way to store files and back up important data. The remote storage of digital documents frees up much-needed space on local devices. Cloud technologies also offer secure data backup capabilities, ensuring business continuity in the event of a disruption.
- Collaboration – Cloud computing has transformed the workplace, making it much easier for people working from different or remote locations to communicate, collaborate and share information. Roughly two-thirds of small and medium-sized enterprises report the need for employees to be able to work anytime, from anywhere. For businesses such as these, cloud solutions offer a major boost to productivity and operational efficiency.
- Resource accessibility – Software, data, and documents stored in the cloud are quickly and easily accessible. Server management is monitored by cloud providers, further liberating businesses from administrative costs.
- Effective management of business growth – In the past, growth forced businesses to make further investments in IT resources. Now, the near-instant scalability of the cloud provides flexible, cost effective computing resources.
How to Choose a Cloud Provider
Businesses should carefully assess cloud providers based on terms, pricing, and service level agreements, as well as security and reputation. Many providers offer low-cost trial periods, which businesses can take advantage of to test compatibility.
It’s important to make a thorough needs assessment in partnership with providers. Topics to address should include:
- The best deployment model
- Security needs
- Software, infrastructure, and platform requirements
- The availability of new applications
- Merging existing IT infrastructure with the cloud environment
The cloud offers a scalable, flexible, affordable route to improved IT performance that is ideal for businesses with limited IT resources.
Toll fraud is a serious security threat for businesses that use VoIP (voice-over Internet protocol), which is especially susceptible to toll fraud. Besides being a type of fraud–which no business wants–toll fraud can cause serious financial damage for businesses.
Yet, some business owners are not aware of what toll fraud is nor of the steps they should take to ensure that it doesn’t happen to their business.
What is Toll Fraud?
Toll fraud is the stealing of minutes from and the tacking on of outrageous charges to both conventional phone systems and VoIP.
In the past, with legacy switches, toll fraud was very lucrative, but it was harder to accomplish, because phone companies relied on switches, and there was no connection to the Internet. Now, hackers target business VoIP systems, which often have more lax security than company computers, and are able to cash in on the toll fraud schemes.
Why Toll Fraud?
Besides stealing minutes, hackers get a cut whenever they commit toll fraud. Toll fraud is big business in some smaller countries that have primitive phone systems with little or no usage. These phone companies charge outrageous rates because very few people use them. Hackers will break into a business’s phone system and use their VoIP to these select countries, racking up huge toll bills. The phone system makes its money from those toll charges, and the hackers get a cut.
Unfortunately, once a company falls victim to toll fraud, the business has little recourse but to pay for it. Most of the charges are paid to the terminating carrier in the country to where the phone calls were made.
Why is VoIP Vulnerable?
Because VoIP is easy to hack, hackers are quick to break into company telephony systems and commit toll fraud.
Even though the amount of money isn’t as big as it once was, the amount of money hackers can make, both for themselves and the countries that initiate the toll fraud schemes, is still sizable. Given that in 2014, the average cost of a VoIP attack was around $36,000, businesses need to be concerned about toll fraud, because most small businesses are unable to absorb that kind of hit.
Because businesses are likely to consider that now that they have VoIP, they simply get free calling and toll fraud shouldn’t concern them, businesses are more likely to become victims of toll fraud. Because toll fraud operates differently, it becomes all that more imperative for businesses to protect their VoIP systems.
When it comes to deploying security in a virtual environment, some industry professionals draw a blank–or, worse, they think that it’s necessary to replace existing physical security protocols with virtual substitutes. This is not true.
In fact, the best approach to use when viewing virtual security is a logical one. Consider this: A jewelry store owner who expands the physical location or who opens a new facility would not try to use his/her current security force to protect the new location, nor would the owner secure the new location by trying to stretch the current security force between two facilities and simply hope that the depleted resources will cover the need. Both sites need to be secure.
Considering the current, overwhelming surge in virtual as-a-service solutions, knowing how and when to apply virtual security measures like firewalls has become a crucial consideration for businesses. This is especially due to the fact that according to industry specialists, over one-fifth of all VPN (virtual private network) security will be deployed in a virtual format by the end of the year.
Companies already understand the flexibility and cost-saving advantages of moving information and even key infrastructure to the cloud (hence, the rapid growth). That said, virtual security protocols should not be an either/or dilemma; they should be employed in a layered defense. The physical systems already in place should be supported with virtual firewalls—not replaced with them—depending on the level of the workload requirements.
The reasons for this layered defense are abundant. Not only does it secure the virtual aspects of the data system, but the same ease of alteration and on-demand access that is available in a virtual environment is accessible with virtual firewalls. Companies can adjust deployment according to specific needs, which allows them to better control financial commitments.
The issue of deployment confusion has been discussed at length by industry experts. Keeping pace with the rapidly expanding network services available in a virtual environment means finding ways to secure that activity from threats.
Therefore, deployment should depend on the same workload and accessibility requirements that have determined the current physical security measures.
Notably, there are two basic types of virtual firewalls:
- Introspective: This type resides within the hypervisor side of each virtual NIC (network interface card). Although it offers a well-managed way to keep virtual machines protected, it is limited in availability at this time.
- Edge: This is the most common form of virtual firewalls. These reside between two or more virtual portgroups or switches. The beneficial aspect of this type of virtual security is that companies can deploy them at the “edge” of their data center or between trust zones in a cloud environment, depending on their workload and throughput activity.
Rules of the Game
In general, there are three fundamental rules when it comes to adding virtual security services to a network:
- Deploy virtual firewalls to enhance the depth of network safety in conjunction with the physical securities already in place.
- Know the specifications of a virtual firewall. (The specs for physical firewalls are outlined; virtual ones should be outlined, too.)
- Don’t limit virtual security to one type (or breed) of firewall. (Requirements play an essential role in the types and amount of firewall protection needed for a network.)
With the changing environment of virtual services, companies can discover the best means of keeping their networks secure by incorporating virtual security protocols. The investment is well worth it when the risks are considered, and the faster, more adaptive role that these protocols play can make a huge difference in security compliance.