One of the controversies surrounding VoIP technology, also known as “Voice over IP,” is whether it’s secure or not. Making phone calls over the Internet with services like Skype or Google Hangouts has a ton of advantages, but security is often a concern. One major question people ask when comparing phones that use traditional phone lines or satellite to their VoIP counterparts is whether it’s possible to listen in to phone calls you make with a VoIP system. The answer, of course, is it depends.
The truth is that it’s possible to listen in to any phone conversation, regardless of whether it’s traditional, mobile, or VoIP. Generally speaking, governments have the technology to easily listen in to any phone call desire. The legal concern is beside the point, of course. Generally, this is illegal, but that hasn’t always stopped government or corporate entities from hearing what you say over a phone anyway. And this is exactly the same when it comes to VoIP calls. The main difference is that you may not need the resources of a huge corporation or government to do it.
VoIP Security Concerns
The main thing is that when you’re using a VoIP call, you’re using the Internet. This means that all of the problems that plague computers and the Internet in terms of security could also plague you. A VoIP call can be intercepted at any point on its journey from your computer or smartphone to the recipient on the other side. And generally, this journey is quite a long one with a lot of stops. But intercepted phone calls on the Internet are just data. What matters is the interpretation. This means that encryption comes into play.
Essentially, if you have a VoIP provider that encrypts calls, then anyone who intercepts them will just have a big lump of data that they can’t do a single thing with. They won’t be able to hear anyone’s voice or do anything with the information besides stare at it. Some providers encrypt their communications at various levels, such as a 256-bit AES encryption, which is an example of one that’s strong enough that it’s pretty extremely unlikely anyone will be able to breakthrough.
Another important fact to consider is that any part of the chain between your computer or phone and the device used to interpret the call on the other side can be a weak link, allowing outsiders the ability to compromise the security. For example, if your computer has a virus or other bit of malware on it, then people could listen in on your calls without even having to break encryption. They can essentially listen to your calls the same way you do: by using your computer.
Overall, there’s no such thing as a perfectly secure phone, regular phones can be tapped, and mobile phones can have people listening in via satellites, and so on. When it comes to VoIP phone calls, the important thing is to have something called a hosted PBX service that focuses on security and keeping your VoIP call safe.
This is a guest post by Lindsey McMahon, a freelance tech writer who enjoys sharing advice about tech solutions.