General Telephony

Hardware Updates Prevent Obsolescence

Hardware Updates Prevent ObsolescenceSo you went out and, after having researched for weeks, you bought a new flat screen TV in time for the big game. You’ve read reviews, spoken to experts, and spend an embarrassingly long time standing in front of walls of options at all of your electronics suppliers’ locations. And today you finally get to sit down into your comfy chair, lean back, and relax knowing that you’ve made literally the best choice based on your budget, space, and needs. It feels good to be a, wait a second, what’s that?

The Only Constant is Change

Of course, the first ad you see while watching your new television is one for, yep, a brand new television technology that’s hitting stores near you. Right now. Instantly devaluing your television, which, though still brand-new and of great quality, is now not what you thought it was. This is basically what happens with all technology purchases and, seemingly, with even less time between updates. Though an irritation at best, sometimes there are modifications made to the actual use of a device (or charging cables, ahem, Cupertino) that are so dramatic that they effectively render it truly obsolete. I was reminded of this the last time I visited some family who still had a VHS re-winder in the shape of a racecar. As cool as it is, that little speedster isn’t doing too many laps around the track these days. What happens, then, when the devices we invest in aren’t just for home but for our businesses?

Choose Wisely

Finding the right options for electronics for business can be daunting, especially in the crowded, often confusing world of telecom hardware. Taking that already dizzying list of options and combing for features like updatable firmware, and it seems like a herculean task. Fortunately, we know how important it is to invest in VoIP phones and routers that will work for you, as long as you need them to. That’s why we’ve curated phones and routers that allow hardware updates that won’t break the bank. New to the list are several high-speed routers with intelligent hardware that can be updated, and even protected, much like a personal computer.

We can be virtually guaranteed to see developments in almost every possible corner of technology. As much as it may be a frustration when that happens with personal electronics, it can actually be pretty crushing to a business when a tech budget is considered a total wash or needs to effectively double when you least expect it. Firmware updates also come out when you don’t expect them to, but they only cost you some time. Picking telecom equipment that grows with your business is as easy as spending a moment with a personal guide to walk you through the latest options, so get started today. Besides, if you spend too much time shopping for a router for work, you might miss the next game on that killer TV of yours!

Protect ya Neck, The VirtualPBX Security Serial – Phone Fraud

Phone FraudIn this series of blogs we examine all topics under the information security umbrella. From corporate blunders to rogue state attacks to the occasional celebrity hack, we believe there is something for businesses and individuals to learn from any cyber security event. We also believe that, while experience is the best teacher, it’s even better to let other people make the mistakes for you.

We’re at it again, coming at you with a topic very important to us- telephone fraud. The ranges vary but overall phone fraud is an enormously costly drain on the telecom industry, totaling over $46 billion dollars in 2013 alone. Yes, that’s with a “b.” Another big reason why we care so much about this topic is because the majority of the fraud that is committed is done so against smaller and medium sized-businesses that lack the resources that larger organizations employ to protect their systems. That’s basically saying that criminal elements are attacking our family. We’re not okay with that, and so we’ve put together some best practices on how to protect ya neck. We do not take to kindly to attacks on our family.

Wait, Crime Isn’t New?

As long as there have been phones and realistic access to technology that would facilitate it, people have been committing crimes over and against the phone lines. Originally referred to as Phone Phreaking, the first widespread recognition of this type of offense was with the use of devices referred to as boxes and differentiated by their method of attack designated by colors. Criminals used everything from Red Boxes that would simulate the sounds of coins entering into early payphones to register false payments to the more widely known Blue Box that would emit a 2600hz tone to pirate the long distance capabilities of a targeted telephone number.

Broader Reach, Bigger Problem

Potentially, that is. Modern telecom evolved from relatively simple beginnings where tonal deceptions could be chaotic for telephone systems, and from that it also evolved away from those risks. Though these vulnerabilities were eventually identified and corrected, the new world of hosted telecom began to open up shortly thereafter, thus providing new territory for lawlessness to try and take hold. This virtual landscape continues to keep very close watch on its borders because, with an exponential increase in phone capabilities also came a spike in the potential area of effect that an industrious criminal organization could have. Most hosted telecom companies know this and have invested heavily in safeguarding their phone network to account for any potential threat, but this process is costly and requires nuanced, expert knowledge to execute. Where does that leave you? Unless you have a Concierge to guide you through the ins and outs of telephone security, we’ve put together a few pointers on how to stay safe.

Know Where the Exists Are At All Times

If you can ascertain how and where a thief will try and gain access to your network, you also know where to build your awareness. Here are a few of the most common types of attacks on modern telephone systems.

  • PBX Registration Exploitations – This is when malicious attempts to register devices are made to your network. If they are successful they can remotely call out from your system racking-up charges.
  • Hardware Attacks – VoIP phones actually operate with pared-down versions of many of the desktops and laptops that power businesses. If they are compromised, they can be programed to route all calls through external, usurious numbers.
  • The Long Con – Or short con, really, but this sounds better. Per usual, one of the greatest vulnerabilities for thieves is through your own employees. If not properly versed on phone security, your team can let slip vital information that can be used against the whole company.

These are the most common ways for VoIP systems to be attacked, and while the extent of damage is greater with these powerful networks, the opportunities for graft are abundant, too. With even a little bit of resistance, criminals are likely to give up quickly and move onto another, less well protected system.

Suit-Up In Armor

Not as dramatic as gearing up for a joust, but hoisting some protection will go a long way in defense of your telephone system. Taking these steps will prove to be a robust beginning layer of any comprehensive data-security plan for your company.

  • Monitor device registration frequencies. Even with many mobile devices being used by your team in the field, you should always have a good idea of how many registries you’d have in total. Wild variations or spikes in that number could indicate that an attempt to breach your network has been made.
  • Another way to protect devices on your network is to always make sure that they are behind a firewall.
  • Update your billing contact information to the appropriate stakeholders. Often times, IT staff will be the initial employees on technical accounts whereas you may want a controller or AP manager to hold access to them after they’re established.
  • Update your system preferences to reflect a minimum amount of access. Specifically, to combat against malicious auto dialers (especially prominent during election years), make sure that calls are routed after a period of time from the menu, otherwise they can cycle indefinitely and charge and crowd your network.
  • Establish meaningful access restrictions to the administrator level of your phone network by granting admin authority only to the people who actually need it. Also, educate all employees on what their individual access means and the proper protocol for protecting it.
  • Also, make sure to run the latest versions of all the software and firmware your company needs to keep moving. Updates often come out and are ignored when they don’t have noticeable changes. When that happens you’re potentially missing out on critical patches and corrections that though inconsequential to the function of a device, can be critical for keeping your walls higher than the criminals can reach.
  • And finally, this one cannot be mentioned often enough. As unfortunate as it is to remind the world, STILL, the vast majority of hacks begin with poor password strength. Maintaining strong password protection is indispensably important to keeping your costs down and your information safe.

We’d love to tell you that your network is always going to be safe because nobody will ever try to hack you, but that’s just not responsible thinking. The best way to make sure that you stay safe in the long run is to do what you can in the short-term whenever you employ a new technology. Whether it’s a VoIP phone at your office or a new computer at your desk, begin that relationship with a healthy, thorough process of security protocol and you’ll find that your need for ongoing protection and damage control will likely be much less than if you hadn’t.

If you need any more specifics about this or another unified communications security topic, our data-security experts are always available to help. If you’ve gotten what you need today, make sure to pay it forward and share this with others who could use it.

Stay safe out there and remember to Protect ya Neck!

Best Buddies Hearst Castle Recap

Best Buddies Start LineOn an early, crisp morning in September, 1,500 athletes came together in the pre-dawn hours to embark on a journey that would be transformative both in their lives, and in the loves of thousands of others who they would probably never meet. This was the start of the Best Buddies Challenge, Hearst Castle.

Together We Can Do Anything

As you may know, we’re dedicated to improving our community by contributing through a number of charities, most recently we’ve teamed up to raise money for the Best Buddies Challenge Hearst Castle for a second year in a row. This year, many of you helped us to meet our goals and shatter our previous records, and thanks to you and our business partners, our team raised $10,160 in just a few short weeks! That money contributed to the whopping $4.5 million that this annual ride/run/walk along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway raised to benefit people with developmental and physical disabilities.

Bringing Faces to the Challenge

Best Buddies does more than just raise money to provide services, it creates communities. One of the key aspects of the Best Buddies organization is an emphasis on actually making buddies! By bringing the communities that they serve into the process of planning, promoting, and ultimately participating in events like the Best Buddies Challenge Hearst Castle, they are making long-term, meaningful friendships a reality for people who wouldn’t otherwise have the same type of environments made available to them. Additionally, Best Buddies understands that getting out, being active, and helping these folks get more socialization and interaction outside of their immediate circles sets them up for success in the other Best Buddies focus – job placement. Participating in the Best Buddies Challenge Hearst Castle gave use the opportunity to make and help new friends, plus if gave valuable experience to all of the men and women who worked on the event to take with them into their new roles.

Best Buddies Riders Lon and JenPlus, like many charitable organizations, Best Buddies generates waves of positivity that continue long after the event is over. With hundreds more people this year who participated or donated for the first time, this event is sure to keep passing along its positive impact for well into the season and next year. Until that time, when you can absolutely count on us setting new goals, we’ll be enjoying the glow (and added calories!) of having raised and ridden a lot further than we once thought possible to help this incredible cause.

Get Involved!

For more information on how to get involved in the next Best Buddies Challenge Hearst Castle, or for more information on the organization and its mission, visit the home of the world’s foremost supporter of people with developmental disabilities today.

KazooCon 2015 – The Final Day

The Whole 2600Hz TeamThe hits don’t stop coming here at KazooCon 2015, and they saved the big guns for last. Okay, full disclosure, obviously I’m a bit biased, but from where I was sitting it was pretty clear who it was that everybody came to see, cough cough, Lon Baker, ahem, cough, cough. There were some other folks, too.

Keeping It Real

Staying true to the theme set forth by 2600Hz COO, Patrick Sullivan on the opening day of the KazooCon, each of the day’s presentations were connected by the common thread of 2600Hz’s focus on Enabling, Educating, and Empowering their customers. With double the content and a lot of it awfully technical in nature, that thread covered some serious ground today. Lets take a look at what all went down.

  • Darren Schreiber, 2600Hz CEO and Co-Founder set the stage for the day with exciting news about the growth that they’re currently experiencing along with introductions of new and updated products and services. In the mass of news, the one word you need to know is mobile. Previewing the 2600Hz Mobile Design Manager was stunning.
  • Lon Baker was delayed in making his way to the stage because we had to have security make a pathway through the throngs of people who showed-up to hear him speak. Once the dust cleared, though, the show went off without a hitch. All kidding aside, the room was abuzz during and following Lon’s guidance on applying brass-tacks business acumen to cloud-based telecom products and how to wire the two factors together. Keep an eye out for his presentation slides, which will be made public in the near future.
  • David Messenger is the founder of Mast Mobile and is a veteran in the game of delivering mobile service to millions across Europe. Messenger’s team has a lot of things working but the crown jewel in the Mast line-up is their business messaging platform. Also underscoring one of the big themes of the conference, this was all built around the mobile-first approach.
  • Telnexus’ Vernon Keenan nailed the clever phrase of the day when he outlined the Telnexus billing and invoicing platform architecture and how it helps accelerate payment to and from VoIP resellers. “Quote to Cash,” is helping Telnexus keep stoking their business’ furnace.
  • Mikhail Rodionov is, in a word, captivating. The SIPLABS CEO and undisputed reining champion of work project naming conventions was on hand to talk about deep mobile integration and all the intense development they have to do to ship product. Also, he took home the prize for the most prolific contributions to the 2600Hz community this year!
  • Karl Anderson is 2600Hz’s CTO and he kicked-off a series of 2600Hz product discussions and reveals, beginning with Kazoo 4.0. While the total spectrum of what this product offers is broad, one key feature that had been clamored for was the now-included historical transactions.
    • Next up was James Aimonetti who presented in great detail the intricacies of Rating, Routing, and Service from the perspectives of both the engineer who interacts with them, and the 2600Hz developer who manages the process.
    • Phone Phreaking is more than just an awesome phrase that only the folks in telecom are likely to use (score one for us!), it’s also an enormous problem. You can expect to see us include mention of this in a future security blog, but just know that in 2013 there was $46 billion in phone fraud, a vast majority of which was committed against small and medium sized businesses that can’t afford enterprise-grade security features. Until now. Stay tuned for more on this very important topic.
    • Aaron Gunn was the closer and, having a background in sales and operations, this is a familiar place for him, too. Wrapping up the conference by following the dollars was appropriate because, as he pointed out in the description of their streamlined and secure billing platform, the sooner providers can bill their customers, the sooner everyone can get paid. Seemed to make sense to me.

There were also plenty of contacts made, networks grown, and even a few knock-knock jokes ruined by yours truly, too many to recount, in fact. The lasting impressions that KazooCon 2015 left on those in attendance should be those of community, service, and constantly pushing the bar higher and higher. It’s because of this that we’re proud to have been the Platinum Sponsor of KazooCon and look forward to growing our relationship with both 2600Hz, and all of the great telecom leaders we met this week.

What’s that? You’re still curious about what shenanigans ensued during the much-hyped KazooCon15 After Party? I guess to clear that up I can only suggest that you not miss it next year to find out for yourself because, as you guessed- what happens at KazooCon, stays at KazooCon. You had to have seen that one coming. See you all at KazooCon again next year!

Infographic – Who Benefits From VoIP?

While we here at VirtualPBX would like to say that everyone would benefit from getting a new hosted phone service for their business, we know that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for business. That said, there are a few particular types of businesses that tend to be more well-served by switching to a cloud-based business phone service. So who benefits from VoIP? Take a peek at this infographic to find out and, as always, feel free to get in touch with us if you have any further questions.

Who Benefits From VoIP?