Unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) platforms deliver unprecedented telecom capabilities to modern businesses using cloud-based infrastructure. However, while UCaaS offers a multitude of benefits—such as improved efficiency, scalability, versatility, and reduced costs—it has also become a target for scams and fraud.
Awareness is the first and most crucial step in protecting your business. In this article, we highlight some of the most common attack vectors that these cons attempt to leverage, and we detail how you can secure and protect your network and your workforce from them.
UCaaS scam: attack vectors
UCaaS systems face various security threats, which primarily fall into two categories: technical exploits and social engineering attacks.
Technical exploits are attacks that target the technology itself. Attackers in these scenarios aim to breach the security of the UCaaS system using technical means, seeking to violate the confidentiality of conversations and obtain unauthorized use of services.
Their goal is often to exploit vulnerabilities in the system, leading to data breaches, misuse of services, or operational disruptions.
On the other hand, social engineering attacks focus on exploiting human psychology rather than technological weaknesses.
In these cases, attackers use deceptive tactics to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information or to subscribe to bogus services. This approach can lead to unauthorized access, data theft or financial fraud, among other harmful consequences.
Both these types of attacks pose significant risks to UCaaS systems by potentially compromising the confidentiality, integrity and availability of communications and services. For this reason, it is vital for organizations using UCaaS solutions to implement strong security measures and educate their users about these potential threats.
Some of the most commonly used technical exploits that can result in UCaaS scams include the following:
- Service spoofing: Attackers may create counterfeit UCaaS platforms that mimic legitimate services. Users of a legitimate service may be redirected to the phony platform by technical means or subterfuge (see the social engineering discussion below). The users' real credentials and other information become exposed there as they attempt to log into the counterfeit platform.
- Software vulnerability exploitation: Attackers may take advantage of known or previously unidentified flaws in the UCaaS software to gain unauthorized access, steal data or disrupt services.
- Fraudulent transactions: Bad actors may use stolen credentials or session hijacking to conduct unauthorized transactions, such as making unauthorized calls, sending messages, subscribing to additional services, or even illegally reselling the services you purchased to unsuspecting third parties.
- API exploits: Attackers may also target application programming interfaces (APIs) that UCaaS relies on for integration with other services to access data or disrupt service operations illicitly.
Social engineering scams
All social engineering scams associated with UCaaS use techniques based on human nature to fool people into purchasing spoofed services or volunteering sensitive information, including credentials, security, and financial information.
Bad actors can use this data to subscribe users to services that don't exist, misuse a user's legitimate UCaaS service or send spam messages and calls to a user's contacts.
There are several attack vectors that scammers commonly use, including these:
- Phishing: Attackers may send fraudulent emails or messages that appear to be from the real UCaaS provider to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information like passwords or call details. They may also mislead users into subscribing to "free services" in an attempt to capture more details.
- Vishing (voice phishing): Similar to (text) phishing, vishing involves using voice calls to fool individuals into divulging sensitive information, often by impersonating a trusted UCaaS service provider.
- Baiting: This technique involves offering something enticing to an individual, like free downloads or additional UCaaS features at no cost, to con them into installing malware or revealing personal information.
- Pretexting: This vector involves creating a fabricated scenario or pretext to engage individuals and deceive them into providing confidential information or unknowingly subscribing to spoofed or compromised UCaaS systems.
All of the above techniques may be employed alone or in combination. As you can see, the primary approach is to deceive a user into thinking that they're interacting with a legitimate UCaaS provider or system when, in fact, they are interacting with a scammer.
How to protect your business from UCaaS scams
Protecting yourself from technical exploits
To help address these issues, most respectable UCaaS providers deliver their services with a plethora of security features already enabled. For the most part, following the technical recommendations of the service provider will cover most attack vectors.
Visit our website to see a list of TeleDynamics' trusted UCaaS partners.
Beyond choosing a reputable UCaaS provider, you can further protect yourself by performing regular software updates and patch management on UCaaS applications and associated software.
This will help ensure that end-to-end encryption is enabled on your infrastructure, confirm that your enterprise network has all the recommended security measures deployed, and ensure that strict access controls and permissions are defined based on user roles and necessity of access.
In addition, performing regular security audits and assessments will help you identify any new vulnerabilities in your UCaaS system that may emerge.
Protecting yourself from social engineering exploits
This is arguably the more dangerous and vulnerable attack vector for UCaaS scams. Scammers take advantage of UCaaS providers' reputations and mask their true identities and intent behind their logos, caller IDs, and good standing.
Education and awareness training are the most effective ways to protect your workforce and business from such scams. Some considerations to keep in mind in this area include the following:
- Employee education and awareness training: Conduct regular training sessions for all employees about the nature and risks of UCaaS social engineering scams. Educate them on common tactics as described above and how to recognize and respond to such threats.
- Simulated attack drills: Regularly conduct simulated unannounced social engineering attacks (such as mock phishing emails or mock vishing calls from a provider) to test employees' awareness and response. This helps with identifying vulnerabilities in employee behavior and reinforcing training.
- Clear response protocols: Establish and communicate clear protocols for responding to situations where entities and organizations outside the business request personal information. Employees should know whom to contact and how to verify requests for sensitive information or actions.
- Regular updates and briefings: Employee turnover and new attack tactics are both good reasons to conduct periodic updates and briefings. Sharing information about any recent scams encountered by the organization and refreshing the workforce's memory about older scams will improve the responses to threats.
- A culture of security: Create a company culture where security is everyone's responsibility. Encourage employees to report suspicious activities or communications without fear of repercussions.
- Incident reporting system: Have a straightforward and accessible system for reporting security incidents, including suspected social engineering attempts. Rapid reporting can minimize the impact of an attack and prevent future attacks using the same tactics.
These are just some of the fundamental ways that your workforce can be well-informed to protect themselves from potential UCaaS scammers. The best strategy to use will also depend upon the extent of UCaaS usage, the services that you subscribe to, and the service provider offering them.
Based on all this information, you can create a comprehensive security policy using a combination of the above strategies to deal with such scams, ensuring that your workforce is sufficiently equipped to protect itself and the business.
It is said that knowledge is power, and this is true when it comes to UCaaS scams. Knowing the risks, tactics, attack vectors, and potential consequences of UCaaS scams is an important step in dealing with them and preventing them before they can cause harm.
By combining the strategies described in this article, organizations can create a more secure and alert environment, significantly reducing the risk of falling victim to technical and social engineering scams in their UCaaS systems.
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