19 December 2018

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TDoS Protection: How to Protect Your Business Phones from Denial of Service Attacks

Business Phone Service by Tom Collins

If you feel your business received a high number of strange calls in the past year from telemarketers, robots or scammers, you’re probably correct. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received over 7 million complaints from businesses and consumers about suspicious phone calls and scammers. That represents a 34% annual growth in the volume of unwanted and criminal phone communications.

Cybercriminals and scammers are still relying on phone lines as a method for trying to extract money from their targets, and some of last year's most common phone scams included more IRS tax scams and fake tech support schemes. Phone risks aren’t going anywhere, and businesses are facing a new malware threat which could tie up their phone lines and smokescreen other criminal activity.

As a small business, your phone lines are a critical tool for communicating with employees and customers. If your lines are down, it can cause reputation damage to your business, even if you're the target of a threat. In this blog, you'll learn why telephone denial of service attacks (TDoS) are a significant threat to businesses, and how to safeguard against this risk.

How to Ensure TDoS Protection for Your Business

Attacks on business communication technology occur on a daily basis, from phones to web applications and servers. There has been a recent trend towards cybercriminals who threaten phone system performance, putting businesses and even 911 call centers at risk by using botnets to disrupt phone system communications.

"These attacks are increasing in frequency, and everyone is vulnerable," says the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Reasons for TDoS attacks range from extortion to disruptive pranks. If your phone lines are attacked, your customers and employees could be denied access to your phone lines. If your phones are infected with malware and used to spam a local emergency contact center, you could inadvertently prevent citizens with legitimate emergencies from contacting 911.

Cybercriminals are increasingly interested in creating botnets to launch telephony-denial-of-service or TDoS attacks against businesses. In 2018, there were three times as many samples of botnet malware as 2017. While phone scams aren't new, TDoS attacks are a concerning trend which demands a response from businesses.

What are TDoS Attacks?

TDoS attacks render phone systems unavailable by saturating lines with fake calls to prevent legitimate voice call communications. Spammers and scammers load malware onto devices to create a botnet which places thousands of automated calls. Technologies for TDoS protection can authenticate callers or detect call spoofing.

How Small Businesses Can Use TDoS Protection to Minimize Risk

The first recorded incident of TDoS was in late 2009 when a dentist reported a $400,000 loss when an attack was used to distract from criminal hacking activity on financial accounts. According to FBI Special Agent Christian Schorle, TDoS attacks are frequently used to create a diversion and shift focus towards telephone lines while an attacker loots money or sensitive data. In the early days of TDoS, hackers relied on automated dialing programs or multiple phone lines to overwhelm a target.

TDoS attacks have evolved as their closely related relative, DDoS attacks, have grown in sophistication and frequency. In 2016, a teenager launched a "well-orchestrated botnet attack against a 911 emergency call center in Phoenix." The hacker distributed code via social media, which caused his followers to unknowingly download malware onto their smartphones which performed thousands of automated calls to 911.

TDoS attacks at a large scale could have devastating consequences on public health and safety, especially if the attack targets emergency services. TDoS attacks on your business can also have adverse effects in the form of delayed customer communications, downtime, reputation damage, or when used as a distraction from other hacking. Fortunately, businesses have several options to protect against the TDoS trend.

1. Transnexus

Transnexus is a telecom software solution for VoIP providers, telecom companies and other managed service providers designed to safeguard against TDoS and many different network threats. In addition to solutions for call routing, Transnexus offers TDoS protection via SIP analytics and the Stir/Shaken framework.

The analytical feature assigns a risk profile to calls when a SIP invite is initiated to detect characteristics commonly associated with spoofed calls or TDoS attacks. In a matter of milliseconds, the software can determine whether the call is routed, declined, or redirected according to risk.

STIR and SHAKEN are security features which use digital certificates and cryptography techniques to evaluate whether inbound calling numbers are secure. The technology is based on the exchange of digital certificates to verify a number hasn't been spoofed.

2. SecureLogix

In July 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) announced a partnership with SecureLogix to perform research and solutions advancement in the field of TDoS protection. SecureLogix is a B2B provider of product and managed service solutions for enterprise telephony management, including the PolicyGuru® solution for complete call security.

SecureLogix uses a combination of policy-based administration and analytical detection to protect against TDoS outages and other risky calls. When hazardous numbers or suspicious call patterns are detected, the solution can automate the process of blocking or redirecting call traffic while providing real-time alerts to security administrators.

3. Partnering with a Reliable Local Telephony Provider

To fast-track TDoS protection for your business, your first conversation should be with a reliable, local telephony provider who specializes in secure enterprise voice communications. Express your concern about TDoS risks, and learn whether they are partnered with SecureLogix, Transnexus or other solutions for advanced TDoS protection.

A local provider can speed your time-to-implementation for TDoS protection services, and may even offer add-on options which further decrease your risks. Atlantech delivers voice and data services on its own fiber network directly to customer offices in the Washington, D.C. area. This highly redundant, secure network is offered with expert 24/7/365 customer support and proactive monitoring to safeguard customer communications. We also offer DDoS prevention services.

Take Action Today to Get TDoS Protection

Cybersecurity attacks occur on a daily basis. In the next year, your small business could fall prey to any number of threats via phone or internet technology, including a DDoS or TDoS attack. If a denial-of-service telephone botnet targets you, your business could face the loss of productivity and customer communications for hours or days as you're swarmed with spoofed calls. Worse, the TDoS attack may be used to distract your business from other hacking activity which targets your bank accounts or sensitive customer data.

As a business, your best bet for obtaining TDoS protection is in conjunction with a trusted business communications vendor who offers SecureLogix, TransNexus, or other tools for real-time call monitoring and security. Ask your voice service provider how incoming voice calls are authenticated and evaluated for risk to avoid a botnet of spoofed call spam.

If you are hoping to increase the security of your business phone systems, there are a few questions to ask to ensure you partner with a trusted provider. To learn more, download the free eBook: 10 Questions to Ask Before You Buy Phone Service for Your Business.





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About the author:

Tom Collins (Twitter, LinkedIn) - is the Director of Enterprise Sales & Marketing for Atlantech Online. He has over 20 years of professional experience in the Internet Service Provider industry and is known for translating technology into positive results for business. A native of Washington, DC, a graduate from University of Maryland (degrees in Government & Politics and Secondary Education), Tom is also a five-time Ironman finisher.