How to Stop Hackers Listening in on Your Conversations

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Monday, October 28, 2019

Digital hackers might not care about your company’s everyday business chat or plans, but electronic eavesdroppers just love any snippet that can be used to fake invoices sent from “your accounts team”, steal credit card or log-in information and borrow other useful data for their own ends. If that doesn’t get your IT department wondering about secure communications, nothing will.

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You might scoff at the idea that digital spies are interested in what your business does. And you’d be right to an extent. But criminal snoops – and their network of cloud systems - are using the same AI tools that every business uses to analyze data, to listen in on a huge numbers of phone calls, business message chats, stolen emails and other information in real time.

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Smart criminals can use a few key pieces of information to easily string together a scam, such as a common invoice fraud or the more advanced impersonation fraud where urgent emails or computer voices can replicate bosses demanding a bank transfer to scam huge sums, all while sounding legitimate or plausible.

Faced with this growing range of threats, securing business communications is now a pressing issue for companies of every size, alongside countering the usual malware threats, ransomware attacks and other risks. As well as being vigilant 24/7, it requires the IT department to upgrade voice and messaging services to secure voice and communications.

The rise of IT fraud tactics

Criminals are fast realizing that while they can scam 100 out of a million (0.01%) consumers with a dodgy vitamin advert for a few dollars, they can scam up to 8% of businesses for much larger sums. Using phishing tactics, impersonating partners and suppliers and gaining access to bank accounts or credit details, it doesn’t matter if a business is a funeral service, a publisher, bank or business services supplier.

Even giants like Facebook and Google aren’t immune, in fact the larger the business, the more angles of attack there are, and the larger the pickings. Using bots, fake apps, network hacks and other methods, hackers can listen in to any types of communication, and then synthesize the speech patterns and use them to create a new layer of convincing scam.

With deep fakes of voices that can convincingly say “Hi, we need to close the deal right now, please transfer £xxx to this account”, or videos that can be created from directors having appeared in panel discussion videos or have a few LinkedIn and personal photos online, the ease with which invoices or money transfer requests can be made is alarming and IT is the lead department in fighting back and securing the company against such threats. 

Protect your business against fraud threats

Every company should be protected against viruses and malware, while conducting penetration testing of networks and training people to look out for phishing. Yet, against the new generation of threat, IT also needs to look at securing voice calls on mobiles or using VoIP to protect devices from apps that can monitor voice calls and intercept messages.

That’s as well as protecting workers who travel internationally where state actors might also take an interest in what businesses are doing in particular markets (trade, banking, military, NGOs, charities and so on).

Secure voice can help in this effort - encrypting calls end-to-end wherever the user is - to ensure business information remains private. They should also ensure all messaging apps are encrypted to military standards, and that workers only use approved apps for calls and messages.

While smaller companies may have started out with consumer-level email, messaging and other tools, the risk means that as they grow, it’s imperative they upgrade to enterprise class solutions and tools with the added levels of security and vendors’ ability to patch and update their services as threats arise.

For sensitive communications, highly encrypted apps and tools are essential, especially when travelling around the world. All of these are useless if IT and HR fail to train workers to take basic precautions, learn to spot scams, question unusual activities, and protect their devices.

No business will ever be totally secure, but by adopting the most secure methods of digital, voice and messaging communication, your company can be as secure as possible, and more ready to face whatever type of threats come next.

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