Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

Mark Kreitzman
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April 7, 2023
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April 7, 2023

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Cellular services have come a long way in terms of both security and privacy. This blog post will explore using a data-only plus Voice over IP (VoIP) setup for greater security and privacy. We'll discuss the pros and cons of this setup and see if it's a viable option for those who want to stay secure and private. We'll also look at some best practices for staying safe and secure when using cellular services. So if you're interested in boosting your privacy and security, read on to discover all the possibilities that a data-only plus VoIP setup may offer.

What is VOIP?

VOIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, a technology that allows users to make phone calls. It is a type of packet-switched telephony, which means that data is sent in small chunks, or "packets," rather than in one continuous stream. It reduces latency and makes the connection more reliable.

The technology works by converting analog signals (such as voice) into digital data and sending it over the internet. The data converts back to an analog signal on the receiving end, allowing for a clear conversation. That enables users to make phone calls from any device that has accessibility to the internet, including smartphones, tablets, and computers.

There are two main types of VOIP:

  • SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) - This is the most common type of VOIP used for business and personal calls. It is based on the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) standard and widely supports by most VOIP providers.
  • H.323 - This older protocol is not as widely used as SIP. It is more suited for large-scale teleconferencing and less commonly supported by VOIP providers.

Benefits of VOIP

There are many benefits to using VOIP, including the following:

  • Cost savings - VOIP is much cheaper than traditional phone systems, as it does not require additional hardware or setup costs. It also eliminates the need for long-distance calling plans since calls over the internet are free.
  • Flexibility - With VOIP, you can make and receive calls from any device as long as it has access to the internet. It makes it easy to stay connected, even when you are away from home or the office.
  • Quality - VOIP calls are generally higher than conventional phone calls, as they are not subject to the same interference and static that can affect landlines.
  • Scalability - VOIP services are much easier to scale up or down than traditional phone systems, as there is no need to purchase additional hardware or sign up for different plans.
  • Security - VOIP services are generally more secure than traditional phone systems, as the calls are encrypted, and the data is not stored on a physical phone line.

VOIP Security: Understanding Encryption and Authentication

When it comes to VOIP security, it is essential to understand the basics of encryption and authentication. Encryption is the procedure of encoding data so unauthorized parties cannot access it. When it works, it scrambles the data so no one cannot read it without the correct encryption key.

The most common form of encryption VOIP services use is TLS (Transport Layer Security). Data in transit can be secured using this protocol. That means the data is encrypted while being sent from one device to another.

Authentication is the procedure of verifying the identity of the user. It is done by having the user enter a username and password or by having them provide biometric data, such as a fingerprint or iris scan. It assures that only authorized users can access the data.

End-to-end encryption, which encrypts data from the source to the recipient, is another common feature of VOIP services. It ensures that the data is secure and it cannot access by anyone else.


VOIP vs. Data-Only

When choosing a VOIP service, it is essential to understand the difference between VOIP and data-only services. Data-only services, such as Skype and Facetime, are designed to send data, such as text and images, over the internet.

On the other hand, VOIP services design to send audio and video over the internet. They are better suited for making phone calls, providing a more reliable connection and better sound quality.

Data-only services are generally less secure than VOIP services, as they are not encrypted, and the data is stored on the provider's servers. Third parties can access the data, which is not the case with VOIP services.

So first, let's talk about the cons of a data-only mobile service

The reality is that we all currently need to have standard mobile service with SMS, which requires actions such as the following;

  • Credit card fraud alerts are one of the many benefits of a data-only mobile service. With this service, you can receive notifications whenever suspicious activity is on your credit cards. This handy tool can help protect you from fraudulent charges and identity theft. Plus, you can get peace of mind knowing that your accounts are secure. However, there are a few potential cons of this service. For instance, you may have to pay a fee to have credit card fraud alerts added to your plan.
  • Additionally, you'll have to keep your phone number updated with your card issuer in case of suspicious activity. And finally, you may get many false alerts, which can be annoying. But all in all, credit card fraud alerts are a great way to protect yourself and your finances.
  • Going to the doctor's office can be a hassle, but it's essential to staying healthy. You can make the most of your doctor's appointments with a data-only mobile service. You can check in online to save time in the waiting room and access your medical records from anywhere. You can easily stay in touch with your doctor through texts or video consultations. The cons of a data-only mobile service are the limited coverage and the data caps. However, if you're careful with your data usage, you can make the most of your doctor's appointments. You can even use your mobile device to research symptoms and treatments while you're there. A data-only mobile service can be a great way to make the most of your doctor's appointments.
  • SMS verification is still required and the only option by many banks, for example
  • US carriers provide data-only service typically for data-only devices. You can purchase data-only SIMs on Amazon, but should you trust those providers when they could be the hackers themselves?
  • From my research, I found that T-Mobile offers what they call data-only, but it comes with a phone number and working SMS, which means SS7 enabled, and one of the reasons you want data-only with VOIP is to omit the SS7 cyber holes.
  • Compliance under SEC requires all messaging to be done via standard cellular SMS. last year, and the SEC handed out 1.7B in fines for regulated companies that used apps such as Whatsapp or Signal for communicating.

The benefits of standard cellular are pretty long, but you get the point. If you travel outside the US, this list gets even longer, and cellular is the best way to get alerts promptly.  

Now let's talk about the cons of VOIP solutions

  • Most VOIP solutions today are built to save money, not qualify for security or privacy.
  • It costs more to provide an encrypted VOIP solution, for example.
  • Many VOIP providers are not based in the US. Do you want to trust your communications to a provider not bound by US regulations?
  • VOIP cannot be used for SMS verification by many organizations such as banks, brokerages, etc.
  • VOIP is software based and easier to spoof, and if the VOIP is not secure, then Cybercriminals can hack your communications
  • Quality can be lacking if the VOIP provider does not invest in infrastructure. Again, most VOIP solutions target the lowest income levels, such as migrant workers that work in foreign countries.

Now let's talk about the cons of your standard cellular service provided by AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc...

  • Standard cellular service is prone to SIM swaps. A hacker can steal your mobile account away, then use your mobile account to reset passwords, impersonate you with voice and sms, take control of your SM, and many other damaging actions.
  • Standard voice & SMS use SS7 and Diameter for things like call setup, 800# routing, SMS routing, and advanced features like call forwarding. But this technology is hackable with cell tower spoofers, SS7 hijacking, and other passive attacks to obtrude your calls and SMS.
  • Voice and SMS are used primarily by hackers to track your location and get data such as calls made and received, SMS data, and more.
  • SMS is the easiest way to trick people into clicking on links or images with a phishing attack to gather your phone details for a SIM swap, location tracking, and more

Now even with a data-only solution or standard cell plan that includes data, you still have to worry about hack attacks.

  • Cell tower spoofers or WiFi hacking can still see unencrypted data and the applications your using.
  • Any data usage, whether cellular or WiFi, can be hacked with a DNS hijack where they route your request to go to a bank website but redirect you to a fake page where you enter your login and password, for example

I could do a 50-page blog on all the cons of mobile communications, but you get the point, so let's discuss a viable option. As a secure mobile provider, Efani gets calls from people who have been attacked and looking for ways to protect themselves.

The latest offer from Efani is a data-only service that currently covers 34 countries, with plans to expand this and offer regional plans in 2023. What makes Black Seal different is that we have built-in security to the service itself, which incorporates, but is not restricted to, the following;

  • Detects, protects, and notifies you of cellular tower spoofers, protects against DNS hijacking, DDOS attacks, location tracking, and more.  
  • Black Seal comes with a private DNS service, for example, and the only way you can protect from DNS hijacks is to provide the DNS but protect those DNS queries from your apps and browsers from cell tower spoofers. It would help if you protected against fake cell towers to have security.
  • There is no SMS functionality on Black Seal, so the SMS security holes do not exist as with other data-only providers.
Black Seal just launched in the US, and you can discover more about it here.

For those who want uber-secure data, plus you need the standard cellular plan with voice, sms, and data, Efani offers a basic plan called SAFE.  

SAFE gives you the choice of top mobile operators in the US,

1. locks out the operator's employees, stores, 3rd parties from having any access

2. Your personal information removes from the carrier account

3. Efani becomes your 7x24 support with 11 layers of verification

4. Provides SIM swap security, preventing account theft

5. Then backs it up with a 5M insurance policy

In addition to Black Seal and SAFE, Efani is now developing a secure VOIP app to be released in the February timeframe to be the most secure VOIP service on the planet.  

The VOIP solution will provide calling and messaging with the highest level of encryption. It will be designed for the highest quality of service globally, capable of encrypted calling and messaging from app2app, such as with Signal, but also calling and messaging to standard cellular users or calling to landlines.  

As a mobile service provider, Efani is positioned to add security well beyond a VOIP provider with a standalone solution. For one, not only can the Efani VOIP solution encrypt voice and messaging, but the Black Seal data solution can also protect the VOIP and your device, as I described previously. Whether using the SAFE plan or BSP, being both mobile service providers allows us to tie the VOIP to the mobile service eventually.

For consumers who want SIM swap protection for standard cellular, Efani offers the SAFE plan.

For consumers and businesses who need the whole cellular experience but also want the best security and privacy, you can use SAFE+ BSP plus the coming VOIP solution on a dual-SIM phone for the ultimate usability and security. That provides you with the following;

  • Standard cellular voice, SMS and data, SIM security and insurance
  • VOIP provides you with a 2nd phone number with encrypted calling and messaging
  • Black Seal provides you with extra layers to detect, protect and notify of attempted intrusions

Black Seal and VoIP only will also be offered for those of you who may want to use a separate phone for your proprietary communications or if your life is simple enough that you don't need the authoritative voice and SMS capabilities.

We have no plans to offer the VOIP service independent from SAFE or Black Seal since it would not meet our security standards. SIM swap protection is the foundation of our business. Without that, you can have the most secure phone, secure OS, secure VPN, and secure Anti-virus, but if your SIM gets swapped, your device/OS&App security becomes obsolete.  

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Mark Kreitzman
General Manager, Efani Secure Mobile

I am General Manager at Efani Secure Mobile. I have over 20 years of experience in enterprise cybersecurity, including 8 years focused on mobile security. I have a high level of achievements and expertise in the Service Provider Alliance/Partner space. I am positioned at senior levels with SPs/Resellers such as AT&T, Verizon, Cisco Systems, and many others. I have deep experience in SaaS, cybersecurity, telecom, mobile & blockchain.

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