Unified communications, or UC for short, is a relatively new technological architecture for integrating a variety of real-time communication tools, to include IP telephony and video conferencing. As you likely well know, UC allows you to manage all your synchronous communications through a single entity instead of trying to juggle various systems at once. Once businesses set up their UC platform, they often stop thinking about communications altogether — that is, until they start thinking about security.
While UC might unite a vast array of communications, it doesn’t necessarily protect them. Because small and medium-sized businesses are some of the most sought-after targets of cyberattack — with over 70 percent of SMBs experiencing cyberattacks and 60 percent of those collapsing within six months of the attack — you need to be aggressive about protecting each and every cyber system, to include UC. Unfortunately, UC presents a broad and multifaceted security challenge, so you’ll need this guide to help you get started.
5 Supports for UC Network Security
It doesn’t matter whether you host your own UC or whether you use a cloud provider. You need to employ thorough network security solutions to ensure all your data is safe. Here are the five most important areas to support to ensure UC network security:
Session Border Control
Your session border control (SBC) has some of the most sophisticated features of your entire UC network, to include security features. You should opt for an SBC provider that offers significant protection against common UC threats, like denial-of-service attacks, SQL injection (and all other code injection attacks) and fraud. Because these kinds of attacks are difficult to guard against in other ways, it is worth the extra expense to include these features.
A network perimeter is a secured boundary between different parts of a network. Most often, companies have perimeters around their private, local areas — like their intranet — and their public-facing areas — like the internet. When it comes to UC, you should have a perimeter around your UC servers and your SBC. Typically, this perimeter should include:
- Firewalls. A firewall is a set of rules regarding what kind of traffic is allowed to flow. You should know what kind of firewall you have — hardware or software — and what capabilities it has.
- Border routers. Border routers function as broad-strokes filters that direct different kinds of traffic to different parts of the network.
- Intrusion detection and prevention systems. IDS and IPS are two different systems; the former functions as an alarm, alerting you to launch your attack protocol, and the latter automatically defends against threats without administrators’ intervention.
It should go without saying that everything on any business network should be encrypted. There are a variety of encryption methods to consider, each with pros and cons regarding security, price, tools and use, so you should speak to security professional to understand encryption is best for your business.
While you should want the management of your UC to be easy, you don’t want it to be too easy so that anyone anywhere can access your UC. Instead, you should set up administrator accounts that require strong passwords. Experts say that the best passwords are a complex string of letters, numbers and symbols, about 12 characters long. For even stronger admin protection, you might consider utilizing two-factor authentication, which requires security questions or a code generated by a fob administrators have in their possession.
Additionally, you should institute mandatory security training for anyone with admin access. Your staff are by far the weakest link in your entire cybersecurity strategy, and instilling in them the importance of cyber hygiene could make the difference between a secure UC network and one riddled with vulnerabilities.
Speaking of vulnerabilities, over time your UC will develop problems and holes. This occurs in any digital system; it is the result of inevitable changes to your network, such as new software applications, new hardware tools and more. The only way to combat this is through scheduled maintenance and update cycles, which ensure that all software is up-to-date and that security is running smoothly. This is especially important with a complex system like UC, where there are potentially several services linked up that require attention. If your SMB lacks on on-site IT team to perform necessary maintenance, you absolutely should hire a third party to perform these checks.
It’s possible that your existing security strategy isn’t enough to protect your UC, which means your business could be on the brink of a serious data breach. The sooner you talk to a security expert about securing your UC, the sooner you can communicate in peace.