VNF-based SBCs critical for white box security
Simplicity is becoming a major selling point – especially when it comes to IT security, writes Paul German, the chief executive of VoIPSec. As organisations wake up to the huge additional requirements associated with the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that comes into force in 2018, any solution that can minimise complexity is compelling.
The use of software defined networking (SDN) to deliver a raft of essential security functions, from firewalls to intrusion detection, via a virtual network function (VNF) model is testament to the growing recognition of the value of an outsourced, yet on-premise, solution. However, the majority of these white box services from managed service providers (MSP) have a significant flaw: a lack of voice over IP (VoIP) security.
As GDPR compliance becomes a priority, the importance of the VNF-based session border controller (SBC) to lock down voice networks and deliver a complete, strength in depth white box security solution has increased.
The data security imperative
The introduction of GDPR in May 2018 is beginning to raise concerns for organisations – especially those mid-market companies that simply do not have the in house expertise or skills required to meet the new, stringent requirements for safeguarding personally identifiable customer data.
In response, growing numbers of managed service providers (MSPs) are offering white box solutions to the market, providing an on premise but outsourced solution for all of an organisation’s security needs – from firewalls to routers, intrusion detection to email security. Using SDN to orchestrate services, this VNF model is extremely cost effective; with no need for the MSP to provide on-site engineering support, new services can be downloaded and configured within minutes, rather than the days or weeks typically required.
This model also offers organisations a neat stepping stone to a wholesale shift to cloud-based IT, providing the chance to gain the benefits of offloading specific network functions that are both costly and difficult to manage whilst also gradually writing off asset value and gaining the required trust in the cloud to support a wholesale migration.
To date, however, these White Box VNF solutions have had one major flaw: a complete lack of VoIP security. Where is the value of spinning up routers, firewalls, email security and anti-virus when an essential component of the strength in depth security model is overlooked? Global losses attributable to telecoms fraud are estimated at US$29.2bn annually – and the UK is the third most prevalent country for the origination of fraudulent calls according to the CFCA 2017 Global Fraud Loss Survey.
Just consider the incredibly sensitive customer data that is now discussed and shared via VoIP networks – from the identifying information provided at call centres onwards. In addition to the risk of toll fraud, unsecured VoIP networks are vulnerable to hackers listening in and collecting this customer data, or using this network to gain access to the applications and databases used within the call centre. Furthermore, hackers could use an unsecured VoIP connection as a way into the MSP’s network via the white box, creating a far broader vulnerability.
Strength in depth
So what is the answer? To be fair, with the hardware based SBCs required to secure a VoIP connection needing on-site deployment, until recently most MSPs have taken the decision that the cost and complexity of securing VoIP was too high. More recently, however, that model has shifted towards software based SBCs that can be upgraded in response to new security risks.
Even more interestingly, there has also been a move towards cloud based SBC deployments that leverage community collaboration to combat escalating threats, from toll fraud to telephony denial of service and voice mail hacking attacks. With this software based model, SBCs can now also be deployed as a VNF – and for MSPs that means the risk versus cost equation has changed fundamentally.
With VNF-based SBCs less complex, less expensive and able to be spun up alongside all the other security components of the white box solution, it is now both fast and cost effective to secure the VoIP network.
In the current climate, companies cannot afford to be distracted from essential business operations by complex compliance demands. And, given the potential fines for non-compliance to GDPR, ignoring the risks of unsecured personally identifiable data is also not an option.
For MSPs facing up to customer demands for a simple GDPR solution, plus the escalating risks associated with the changing threat landscape, a cost effective VNF option is becoming compelling. MSPs adopting the VNF model to deliver a white box solution that takes away all the issues of deployment and upgrade have a strong proposition – but it is essential to address every aspect of the security risk: and that includes VoIP.