SecurityBrief New Zealand logo
New Zealand's leading source of cybersecurity and cyber-attack news
Story image

Security versus convenience? Don't trust everything 'UC'

By Sara Barker
Mon 9 Oct 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Unified communications (UC) is moving from cutting edge to commonplace as more enterprises see the value of consolidating communications into a single, simple-to-use application. But if your company’s applications and all the conveniences that come with them  have you second-guessing your security exposure, trust your instincts. The reality is that UC applications—even well-established ones—present a security risk to your enterprise.   While UC-based attacks haven’t been around as long as Internet-based hacks, they’ve attracted more attention from criminals because of their rate of success and their profitability. For 2015, the Communications Fraud Control Association (CFCA) estimated global losses for communications fraud at more than $38 billion. To put that into perspective, global credit card fraud is estimated at a little over $16 billion each year.   For Singapore, aspirations to become a Smart Nation have put a premium on data protection and advanced the race against cyber threats. In June, the Ministry of Communications and Information, in partnership with the Cyber Security Agency, released the proposed Cybersecurity Bill for public consultation. This bill is expected to be passed by Parliament by the start of 2018, and will have critical implications on how enterprises manage, investigate and respond the threats related to their applications, including UC.   These UC applications run in real time on IP-based networks (e.g., TCP and UDP), and real-time IP communications use a protocol called SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) that is embedded within the TCP and UDP streams. Real-time communications have different requirements than data communications. For example, if you drop a packet while downloading a web site, you can just send another packet. But if you drop a word in a real-time conversation, you can’t re-insert it later in the conversation.   Why is the distinction between real-time and data important to security? Because many companies are using data-based security devices, such as firewalls, as their primary line of defense for everything, and firewalls simply weren’t designed for SIP-based communications. As a result, enterprises turn off certain security features to accommodate real-time voice and video, which in turn creates new security holes. Cybercriminals not only know this, but exploit this.   How Do You Spell UC Security? S-B-C.

Ranked 5th in Asia in terms of vulnerability to cyber-attack by Deloitte’s Asia-Pacific Defense Outlook report in 2016, Singapore and its enterprises are constantly exposed to an array of threats, including data exfiltration, DDoS attacks, ransomware, etc. It seems a month doesn’t go by without stories of the latest security breach or website shutdown making the news.

The latest episode of the Singapore cyber attack saga, for instance, involves life insurance firm AXA and the stolen personal data of its 5,400 customers. And  this is just one of the big attacks. The reality is that most enterprises will be targeted by some type of sophisticated network attack—and more than once—over the next twelve months.   Mobile devices that use UC and real-time collaboration tools are as susceptible to attack as any other network-connected device—even more so when you consider risks such as non-secure wireless networks, weak password protection and the presence of “rogue” productivity applications. Given Singapore’s mobile penetration rate – one of the highest in the world – employees’ unsecured mobile devices could very likely become the next weak spot in their company’s defenses.    So, if the proliferation of UC applications is a problem, what’s the solution? Session border controllers, also known as SBCs.   SBCs function as a kind of highly sophisticated firewall designed specifically for real-time communications such as voice, video, screen sharing and WebRTC applications. SBCs provide security features such as media and signaling encryption, back-to-back user agents, network topology hiding and gray/blacklisting designed specifically for SIP communications.

Beyond security, SBCs include features such as media transcoding and SIP interworking that make UC applications work better. You can think of an SBC as a “traffic cop” that can enforce rules, give directions (in a variety of languages) and ensure that network real-time traffic flows smoothly and safely.   SBCs can take many forms. They can be small enough for a branch office of ten employees or big enough to handle thousands of calls per second in the largest data centers. They can be deployed on premises or in the cloud as a hosted service. They can run on a physical appliance or as software on a virtual machine. With so many options, one would assume that every enterprise would have some type of SBC in place. This is, however, not the case. In fact, over one-third of all enterprises (37 percent) that have SIP trunks coming into their data center do not have an SBC in place to secure those SIP communications.   Three Ways That An SBC Can Save Your IP Network   #1. Don’t trust your firewall to do a job it wasn’t designed for. Firewall technology is all good and fine for data communications; next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) are even better. But a NGFW isn’t designed to help you secure real-time communications. In fact, the application layer gateway (ALG) security feature on most NGFWs can negatively impact call completion on your network.

In other words, UC applications exceed the IQ of the standard enterprise firewall. So, what do most enterprises do? They turn off the ALG feature, which immediately exposes their UC application to security hacks. Only an SBC is designed to address both reliability and security in real-time communications.   #2. Don’t treat SBCs and firewalls as complementary devices; they are co-defenders. Even enterprises that use SBCs often under-use them in the sense that they treat their SBCs and firewalls as separate security entities. This is a mistake, because cybercriminals will often attack multiple entry points within moments of each other. Why do cybercriminals do this?

Because they’re looking for a weak link in your network’s armor. Imagine that the moment a network attack is detected, every SBC and firewall was alerted to the attack and could immediately blacklist the source IP address; a holistic security approach like that would shut down phishing attempts and DDoS attacks immediately.   #3. Ensure your network gets smarter over time. One of the biggest reasons why enterprises have trouble spotting abnormal network activity is because they don’t really understand what “normal” looks like. A flood of calls from  Malaysia could be a TDoS attack—or it could be your Malaysia office dialing in for an all-hands conference call. SBCs shouldn’t be “dumb” sentries. They should leverage behavioral analytics to help drive customized and dynamic policies for your enterprise to more accurately identify anomalous and suspicious traffic, and safely quarantine that traffic until a determination can be made.   One final word of caution: don’t look at SBCs as just security devices. Interoperability is critical to unified communications, and SBCs are crucial to providing seamless communications between different applications, devices and networks through transcoding and interworking. In other words, it takes an SBC to make unified communications truly secure and unified.

Article by Daniel Kwan, vice president and APAC general manager, Sonus Networks.

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - ActiveCampaign, Arcserve, LogRhythm & Qlik
We round up all job appointments from June 17-22, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Phishing
Online identity theft is rising in NZ - here’s what to do about it
It may start with a few stolen details online, but it could end with thousands of dollars missing or worse, a reputation down the drain.
Story image
Internet of Things
Domino's Pizza: A blueprint for secure enterprise IoT deployment
Increasingly, organisations are embracing smart technologies to underpin innovations that can enhance safety and productivity in every part of our lives, from industrial systems, utilities, and building management to various forms of business enablement.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Abnormal Security finds financial supply chain under threat
New research by Abnormal Security has found a rising trend in financial supply chain compromise as threat actors increasingly impersonate vendors.
Story image
Cloud
QuSecure partners with DataBridge Sites to showcase platform
QuSecure has partnered with DataBridge Sites to showcase its Quantum-as-a-Service (QaaS) orchestration platform, QuProtect.
Story image
APAC
Aqua Security launches cloud native security SaaS in APAC
Aqua Security has announced the general availability of cloud native security SaaS in Singapore, serving the broader APAC region.
Story image
Secure access service edge / SASE
Cloudflare adds new capabilities to zero trust SASE platform
New features for Cloudflare One include email security protection, data loss prevention tools, cloud access security broker, and private network discovery.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Ingram Micro launches vendor-backed security program
Ingram Micro has unveiled a new program intended to give resellers the effective offerings their customers need to stay safe in the evolving threat landscape.
Story image
Ransomware
More than 90% of cyber attacks made possible by human error
The data are clear, with cyberattacks on the rise in recent years and the cybersecurity situation increasingly complex. 
Story image
Zscaler
Securonix partners with Snowflake, Zscaler in joint venture
Securonix is embarking on a joint technology integration with Snowflake and Zscaler to speed up threat detection and response at cloud scale.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Schneider Electric and Claroty launch building security solution
Schneider Electric has announced the launch of Cybersecurity Solutions for Buildings, a solution designed to help buildings customers secure BMS.
Story image
SaaS
Commvault's SaaS division experiences notable growth
Commvault has revealed the global momentum that its SaaS division Metallic has experienced since its launch two years ago.
Story image
Collaboration
Why the success of client collaboration projects depends on addressing these five warning signs
New tools, applications, and software have enabled project collaboration to continue remotely, both between employees within an organisation and with its clients.
Story image
Cloud
SonicWall recognises partners and distributors at FY2022 partner awards
SonicWall has recognised its distributors and partners for their efforts in producing the company’s most successful year to date.
Story image
Amazon Web Services / AWS
Zscaler, AWS accelerate onramp to the cloud with zero trust
Zscaler has announced an extension to its relationship with Amazon Web Services, as well as innovations built on Zscaler's Zero Trust architecture.
Story image
Apple
LastPass announces new capability for iPhones and iPads
LastPass has announced its new save and fill experience, allowing customers to fill in, create and save their credentials directly within the site's form field.
Story image
PagerDuty
Ready for anything with the PagerDuty Operations Cloud
In a world of digital everything, teams face increasing complexity. Ever-growing dependencies across systems and processes put customer and employee experience, not to mention revenue, at risk.
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - Boomi, Limepay, Thales, VMware & Zoom
We round up all job appointments from June 6-16, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Why is NZ lagging behind the world in cybersecurity?
A recent report by TUANZ has revealed that we are ranked 56th in the world when it comes to cybersecurity - a look into why we're so behind and what needs to be done.
Story image
Wavelink
How Wavelink fosters creativity and careers in the channel
Wavelink is a 100% channel business, with all sales flowing through its authorised reseller partners. It has been a B2B technology distributor for almost 24 years and offers a broad range of software across cybersecurity, mobility, networking, and healthcare.
Story image
Cybersecurity
ConnectWise reveals cybersecurity updates and partnerships
ConnectWise has unveiled new updates to its services and highlighted the importance of cyber insurance at its IT Nation Secure conference.
Story image
Microsoft
SMX partnership with Microsoft leads to NTT recognition
SMX has captured the attention of NTT after receiving positive reviews from businesses across Australasia and beyond for its email security.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Aqua Security, CIS create software supply chain security guide
Aqua Securityand the Center for Internet Security have together released the industry’s first formal guidelines for software supply chain security.
Story image
DDoS
Q1 DDoS and application attack activity reveals surprise result
The cybersecurity threat landscape in the first quarter of 2022 represented a mixed bag of old enemies and new foes. New actors dominated the DDoS threat landscape while application security faced tried-and-true attack vectors.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Significant security concerns resulting from open source software ubiquity
"The risk is real, and the industry must work closely together in order to move away from poor open source or software supply chain security practices."
Story image
10 Minute IT Jams
Video: 10 Minute IT Jams - An update from Rimini Street
Today we welcome back Daniel Benad, who is the GVP & regional GM for Oceania at Rimini Street.
Story image
Cybersecurity
The link between cybersecurity, extremist threat and misinformation online in Aotearoa
Long story short, it's often the case that misinformation, threat and extremism link closely to cybersecurity issues and cyber harm.
Story image
Collaboration
IT and security team collaboration crucial to data security
Many IT and security decision makers are not collaborating as effectively as possible to address growing cyber threats.
Story image
Digital Transformation
Cybersecurity priorities for digital leaders navigating digital transformation
In recent years, Asia-Pacific has especially been a hotspot for cyberattacks, and as we continue into 2022, it’s evident that the problem is becoming more significant.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Malwarebytes expands Nebula platform with DNS module
Malwarebytes has expanded its Nebula platform with a new DNS Filtering module designed to provide a quick, flexible, and comprehensive Zero Trust offering for Nebula users.
Story image
Dark web
Cybercrime in Aotearoa: How does New Zealand law define it?
‘Cybercrime’ is a term we hear all the time, but what exactly is it, and how does New Zealand define it in legal terms?
Story image
SaaS
Varonis strengthens security capabilities for AWS and S3
Varonis has strengthened and expanded its cloud and security capabilities, with a critical aim of improving safety and boosting data visibility in Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3).
Story image
Cybersecurity
Trend Micro unveils dedicated security for electric vehicles
The cybersecurity company has announced VicOne - dedicated security for the electric vehicles and connected cars of today and tomorrow.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Threat actors ramp up their social engineering attacks
As people get better at identifying potential threats in their inbox, threat actors must evolve their methods. Their new M.O? Social engineering.
Story image
Data Protection
Thales solution supports DevSecOps teams with data protection
Thales' CipherTrust Platform Community Edition enables DevSecOps teams to deploy data protection controls into multi-cloud applications faster.
Story image
API
Industry-first comprehensive risk-based API security enhances protection
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have become a crucial part of operating web and mobile application businesses and are causing significant economic growth in the digital sector.
Story image
INTERPOL
Hundreds arrested, millions seized in global INTERPOL investigation
A two-month-long investigation by INTERPOL this year involved 76 countries and clamped down on organised crime groups behind telecommunications and social engineering scams.
Story image
Yubico
New research shows global drive for passwordless authentication
A new study has shown there has been a significant shift towards wanting a passwordless future, but adoption is still in its infancy.
Story image
Manufacturing
Sternum joins NXP, collaborates on IoT security and observability
Sternum has announced it has joined the software partner community of NXP Semiconductors, a manufacturer of and large marketplace for embedded controllers.
Story image
Identity and Access Management
Ping Identity launches corporate venture capital fund
Ping Identity has launched a corporate venture capital fund to foster innovative offerings for the identity security market.
Story image
Network Security
Netskope announces zero trust network access updates
Customers can now apply zero trust principles across a range of hybrid work security needs, including SaaS, IaaS, private applications, and endpoint devices.
Story image
Compliance
OCEG survey shows demand for connected GRC systems
The survey also revealed that many organisations lack visibility and connected processes to manage the increased velocity and volume of risks. 
Story image
Cybersecurity
Palo Alto Networks named Google Cloud technology partner of the year for security
Palo Alto Networks was recognised for helping organisations rapidly transform security operations for future success.
Story image
DDoS
Flashpoint unveils security offering for school boards
Flashpoint has released its K-12 risk management and security offering to provide school boards and education security practitioners with tools to recognise, prevent and manage cyber and physical threats.