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Don’t Phreak Out – 4 Simple Ways to Deter Phone System Hackers

smashed-phonePhone hacking has been in the news a lot recently.  But did you know that phone hacking is not confined to accessing individuals’ voicemails on their mobile phones?

The hacking of business telephone systems, otherwise known as “phreaking”, “toll fraud” or “dial through fraud”, is a very profitable business for criminal gangs.  The global cost of phone system fraud during 2011 was estimated at over $4.5 billion and is often linked with terrorist organisations.  As one of the top 5 countries where phreaking occurs, this sophisticated form of fraud is currently costing UK businesses around £1.3 to £1.5 billion per annum.

When a company is targeted, the costs incurred can range from £1,000 to over £90,000, depending on the destination dialled, the number of calls being made, and how long it is allowed to continue before being detected and stopped.  Your telecoms provider will also normally require you to pay the bill.

However, there are some simple things which you can do now to reduce the risk of this happening to your company:

1) LOCK DOWN YOUR PHONE SYSTEM AND CHANGE YOUR PINS

Phone hacking is most commonly perpetrated by gaining access to your company’s internal telephone system, or PBX.  Often, this is achieved by dialling in and accessing your voicemail, then they set up a call divert to another number (often an expensive international destination).

This is why it’s essential to change your voicemail PINs on a regular basis (and ensure they are not still set to the default “1234”).  If you don’t require the dial through or divert facilities on your phone system, disable them or ask your system maintainer to do so.

2) BAR INTERNATIONAL/PREMIUM RATE CALLS

The majority of numbers dialled by hackers are to international destinations and premium rate numbers.  Ask your telecoms provider to bar calls to these destinations if nobody within your company needs to dial them.

3) MAKE SURE YOU ARE ALERTED TO SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY

Does your telecoms provider offer the facility for you to set up email alerts when suspicious, expensive or long-duration calls are made?  If you are unsure, ask them if such a service is available.  If you don’t have time to set it up yourself, ask your telecoms provider if they can set one up for you.

4) FIND OUT WHAT YOUR TELECOMS PROVIDER CAN DO TO HELP

Ask your telecoms provider if they have any other tools available to help you reduce the risk of fraud.  Some providers can set a cap so that you will not be charged more than a set amount during a period of fraudulent activity, regardless of the actual amount of charges amassed during this time. Your provider should also be actively monitoring all the calls on their network and reacting speedily when any suspicious activity is spotted.

The recent economic down-turn is seeing a rise in this form of criminal activity.  I’d suggest acting now to stop them getting away with it at your expense.

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