This article is part of a larger series on Unified Communications.
Encryption is critical in unified communications (UC) to protect company data from being stolen or copied. Since UC solutions send information over the internet as data packets, they are vulnerable to eavesdropping techniques and local network breaches—putting your company communications system at risk. In this article, we explain why unified communications security is essential for businesses and the various ways to protect data through encryption.
Why UCaaS Encryption Is Critical for Businesses
Encryption is regarded as one of the essential components within a company’s cybersecurity strategy. It enhances data security, maintains company integrity, protects against breaches, and ensures regulatory compliance.
Unified communication as a service (UCaaS) platforms have certain attributes that make them more difficult to secure than standard client-server apps. As a cloud-based tool, anyone can access it from anywhere using any device. This makes it easy for people with bad intentions to obtain and intercept data moving between the UC provider’s server and the remote user’s device.
This is where encryption comes in—by keeping the web traffic safe and ensuring only the intended users have access to the data they share. Encryption works by converting plain text data into an unreadable format before transferring it to the cloud, thus protecting it from unauthorized users. This algorithm makes any data sent through your UCaaS provider indecipherable without the encryption key, even if there’s been a breach.
Types of Security Methods for Encrypting UCaaS
With the emerging threats and vulnerabilities of UCaaS, it’s important to understand the associated security protocols when choosing a provider. Fundamentally, UCaaS security protocols must include encryption to protect data when it’s at-rest and in-transit. Click on each encryption method below to learn how UCaaS providers encrypt your company data.
UCaaS providers house data centers in multiple, globally disparate locations to keep their uptime percentages high. Georedundancy, the process of employing multiple servers worldwide, ensures that if one center is attacked or suffers a disaster, the others can instantly and seamlessly pick up the slack.
To protect data that is at-rest in these data centers, a UC provider employs data center encryption. This uses an encryption key to ensure any data theft will result in scrambled information.
Here are two methods your provider may use to encrypt data as it is being stored:
- Full-disk: Full-disk encryption might use the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), which encrypts fixed data stores. Keys using AES have options for texts that can be 128, 192, or 256 bits. The key or passphrase is entered directly when the system boots up.
- Database: This type of encryption is done on servers and may also use AES for encryption. Since these data centers are remote in most cases, remote passphrase or key entry is used by administrators when the databases start up.
Also known as E2EE, end-to-end encryption applies a layer of encryption only to the devices that are at play. As a result, sending data to a recipient is completely protected via scrambling from hackers attempting to listen in. The only party able to unscramble the transmitted data is the addressee.
E2EE technology also protects browser-based communications. If your customers or colleagues initiate a call from any Chromium 83-based browser that supports insertable streams, their communications will be secure.
One of the advantages of E2EE is that the sender or the recipient only decrypts it. The message cannot be altered while it’s in transit, and if someone attempts to access it at this stage, the message will be completely unreadable when it arrives. The downside is it doesn’t hide the fact that data was transferred and doesn’t protect information sent or received using a stolen device.
UCaaS providers like Nextiva and RingCentral use secure real-time transport protocol (SRTP) and transport layer security (TLS) to protect data transmission. SRTP is a transport protocol that securely sends data packets using cryptographic ciphers. The primary method for encryption with SRTP is AES, reducing the chances of targeted attacks using direct denial of service (DDoS).
SRTP is flexible enough to add new encryption algorithms when needed. Providers like 8×8 and Dialpad use their additional keys to ensure even greater security during UCaaS processes like conference calls and online meetings.
Providers utilize TLS to protect some of the finer-tuned details of your call, like phone numbers. In UCaaS, TLS encrypts detailed information like usernames to restrict access from external parties. TLS’ main methodology uses a public key infrastructure (PKI) hierarchy that is only made available to the administrator.
Usernames and passwords used in UCaaS transmissions are completely indecipherable once sent by outside forces. After the TLS handshake is completed when a connection is established, encryption begins. While the public key is accessible to most, the secondary private key’s mathematical relationship to the public key has complex algorithms so that the message will be nearly impossible to decipher.
Best Practices for UCaaS Security
Moving to cloud communications gives your business plenty of advantages, but it doesn’t come without challenges and risks. Common human errors can leave your company network exposed to various threats and make it vulnerable. Here are the unified communications security best practices to implement for your business:
- Use strong passwords: Enforcing a password policy ensures all employees create strong passwords for their accounts. This protects your company from various cyberattacks and hacking attempts. An excellent tip is to use a password manager that makes it easier for employees to comply with your password policy.
- Choose a secure UC solution: The right UC provider should help you meet compliance requirements and provide robust security features. Look for solutions that offer encryption, firewalls, secure data centers, user access controls, and fraud protection.
- Restrict access to company data: Managing permission levels to your company’s UCaaS platform ensures that only trusted users have access to it. It also enables employees to customize their account credentials to ensure unique login details.
- Provide virtualized private network (VPN) for remote workers: Hackers can capture unencrypted data when remote employees use free Wi-Fi access to access their company’s internal systems. Investing in a VPN gives employees remote access to the resources they need while eliminating security concerns.
- Monitor call logs: A regular scan of your call log allows you to establish a baseline of how your UC system is used for normal activity. When the activity exceeds the baseline, the call logs will help you investigate if the system is compromised or being used for unintended purposes.
- Deploy an effective firewall: Firewalls serve as your first line of defense against cybercriminals. It prohibits unauthorized traffic from entering or leaving the network, securing your company from external attacks.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What techniques do hackers use to steal unencrypted data?
Hackers use several techniques, but the most popular attack type is packet sniffing. The hacker uses a packet sniffer application that monitors network traffic and steals data that may have been left unencrypted. Best practices to avoid packet sniffing include using a reliable VPN and avoiding public Wi-Fi networks.
Are calls via landline networks encrypted when they join video meetings?
Unfortunately, when you use a UC provider like Zoom, calls made via landline aren’t protected using end-to-end encryption. To ensure your communications have end-to-end encryption, use software designed to provide unified communications security. This includes most mobile and softphone apps, but this may vary across providers. Some may even have attendee limits for encryption.
What’s the difference between symmetric & asymmetric encryption?
Symmetric encryption involves the use of a single key to code and decode a message. While it has a fast encryption process, it also has a higher chance of getting compromised since it only uses the same key for encryption and decryption.
Asymmetric encryption is more difficult to access because it makes use of two keys—a public key and a private key. One key is used to encrypt the data, and the other decrypts it. This ensures that confidential data is kept private, and only those with the secondary key have access to the information.
Any business that uses a cloud solution like UCaaS should have a proper encryption strategy to fight cyberattacks. One way to do this is to pick the right UCaaS provider for your business to help you reap the security benefits of unified communications.
If you’re looking for a secure provider that employs several techniques such as account-level security and end-to-end encryption, we recommend 8×8. Read our full 8×8 review to determine if it’s the best UCaaS solution for your organization.