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Businesses who switch over to internet telephony systems in a bid to slash telephony costs have been warned to guard against hacking attacks.

The latest VoIP security threats and countermeasures were outlined at a presentation at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday. The talk, by security experts from SecureLogix and 3Com's Tipping Point security appliance division, was accompanied by the release of 13 new security tools.

SecureLogix CTO Mark Collier and David Endler, director of security research at 3Com explained how the scope and severity of attacks on VoIP networks is likely to increase as adoption increases. That much is well enough understood in security circles but the talk aimed at going further by explaining the types of attacks that are likely to occur and how to defend against these exploits. A variety of VoIP attack scenarios were outlined by Collier and Endler, the chairman of the Voice over IP Security Alliance (VOIPSA).

Alongside the talk, the security researchers released 13 new tools designed to illustrate generic flaws on insecure VoIP systems. These tools, released to assist penetration testers and corporate sys admin, illustrated how it might be possible to overload phones with spurious traffic, flood IP telephony phones with calls, force hang-ups, reboot phones or reassign devices to other users. The tools all target systems using Sessions Initiation Protocol (SIP). Most current systems from leading vendors such as Cisco and Nortel are moving from proprietary protocols towards SIP, so the threats outlined are more for future reference than current use. Greater adoption of SIP will bolster interoperability between the equipment of various vendors.

"The majority of VoIP systems out there are not SIP enabled. Most of them are pushing forward with SIP adoption," Endler told News.com. IP telephony system vendors, such as Mitel, have welcomed the release of the tools as a positive step towards VoIP security. However Endler acknowledged that the availability of security testing tools has its downside. "Obviously, releasing any security tools is a double-edged sword in that you can't restrict who has access," he said. ®

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