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Phone Hacking – an unexpected cost to businesses

Think of phone hacking and you probably think of news reports of newspapers gaining access to the phones of celebrities and politicians to gather information. What you may not think of is criminals hacking into the phone systems of businesses.

Once access has been gained to a company’s network, this can be used to illegally route calls, either to make international calls or even to generate revenue from premium rate numbers, all at the expense of the hacked company.

Usually after the companies have closed (often at weekends or bank holidays to help avoid detection) the hackers have gained access to the network and called premium rate (09) and special rate (0871) numbers which they earn revenue from. In some cases this revenue is used to fund organised crime and terrorist activity. Many businesses are unaware that they are liable for any charges generated during these attacks and that getting this money back is a lengthy process.

A case in America that made it to court uncovered an international crime gang that had access to over 2,500 PBX’s and had illegally routed calls to the value of $55million dollars. Another case of note, and probably the most high profile UK victim was New Scotland Yard.

The average call charges faced by a company hit by this type of hacking is £10,000.

As you can see by the figures above, phone hacking is a serious crime and in all cases we advise affected parties to notify the police as soon as the hack is brought to their attention. The called numbers should also be reported to Ofcom and Phonepay Plus.

As with computer hacking, there are measures to reduce this risk of being hit, however as fast as these measures close one door, the hackers find ways to open another.

One of the main ways access is gained is through services such as voicemail which allow you to dial into a network externally, but there are simple steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of this happening. Ensure all ways of accessing your network are password protected (just as you would put a password on your wireless internet network), change these passwords from the system default and ideally update them often, don’t share passwords, make passwords as long and complicated as possible (many hackers have sophisticated methods that can crack passwords 16 digits long) and keep all access codes secure (some victims had calls from individuals claiming to be from telephone companies asking codes to do work on the network or to update their security).

It is also worth considering what kinds of calls you make; does your business need to be able to call premium rate or international numbers? If not, consider call barring features so if your network was compromised, it would be harder for extensive call charges to be built up.

At Deep Blue we take the security of our customers seriously which is why we partner with a number of developers and services to provide additional security to our customers. We use multi level monitoring systems to track call traffic volumes. These alert us and can even automatically apply out bound call barring should suspicious activity be found.

If phone hacking is something you are concerned about or if you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to contact one of our friendly support staff.

Green fiber optic background.

ISDN Withdrawal – the key questions answered

In this article we answer some of the key questions you may have about the upcoming ISDN withdrawal and the wider closing of the PSTN.

What is the PSTN?

The Public Switched Telephone network or PSTN currently forms a large part of the UK telecoms infrastructure. It is made up of copper telephone lines, fibre optic cables, microwave transmission links, satellites, undersea telephone cables and mobile networks. It used for several functions, including the making of calls using analogue voice data and Supporting digital services such as ISDN.

Why is the PSTN being withdrawn?

According to Openreach:

‘the equipment which runs the PSTN is ageing and will reach its end of life by December 2025.  This means the analogue telephone voice services that are reliant on this network will no longer be available……. Spare parts are becoming out of manufacture and, additionally, many of the people who designed, built and operated the system are retired or close to retirement so skills are increasingly scarce.’

The current PSTN network will be replaced with a fibre and VoIP network.

What products will be affected?

The PSTN network currently supports a number of products which, when it is withdrawn, will no longer be available. The key one which will affect business customers is the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN). Many companies have telephony systems which use either ISDN2 or ISDN30 channels to make and receive calls. Over 16 million lines and channels are affected by the swicth off and will need migrating prior to 2025.

When are the services being withdrawn?

Openreach plans to stop allowing the connection of new PSTN services, like ISDN, from September 2023. All connections will be finally switched off in December of 2025.

How will the switch off be managed?

This is still an ongoing discussion. Openreach are in regular discussion with Ofcom and the Office of the Telecommunications Adjudicator (OTA2) about this process. The Federation of Communication Services (FCS) is also involved in these discussions. As a member of the FCS, Deep Blue is part of the wider conversation about how the withdrawal will be managed for communications providers and their customers.

What alternative products will there be?

Openreach are currently in the process of introducing a range of new services alongside some of their existing ones to ensure internet access is available once the PSTN is discontinued. From there, call traffic will be handled as Voice over IP (VoIP). This basically means that your voice call is sent as bits of data via your internet connection. If you are using SIP trunks, Horizon or InBound then you are already making calls via this technology.

I’m using ISDN lines, should I make the switch now?

As always when big changes are happening, some companies use the uncertainty for their own gains. We have already seen customers who have received communications, both at their business and at home, implying their connectivity is under threat and they should move now before it’s too late! This, luckily, is not true. There is still almost five and a half years until the PSTN is deactivated so while it is something to start giving thought to, it is not a reason to rush to make changes.

There are, however, plenty of other good reasons to make the switch. Keep a look out for our article ‘ISDN to VoIP- is it time to make the change?’ coming soon. In it we will detail the many benefits of switching to a VoIP solution: like potential cost savings, resilience and features.

In Conclusion

Many companies are already taking advantage of digital services which will serve them now and after the switch off. For those that aren’t, there is plenty of time and plenty of options for them to make the move to. Openreach, the FCS and service providers like Deep Blue are all working closely to put plans and procedures in place to manage the switch.

Deep Blue customers can rest assured that we will be on hand to make the change as easy and stress free as possible.

Have more questions, want to get ahead of the crowd or keen to start taking advantage of VoIP for it’s many other benefits? Contact Deep Blue today on 0333 240 9100 or by email to theteam@deepbluetelecom.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Telecoms Predictions for 2017

Our 2017 Predictions

HAPPY NEW YEAR

 

At Deep Blue Telecom, we enjoy keeping up-to-date with technology developments, so we thought we would share some of the trends and predictions we anticipate for 2017:

The pace of change in Telecoms and IT continues to accelerate fast. Standing still is not an option and constant innovation is needed to keep pace with evolving and ever more challenging customer demands.

But challenges bring with them opportunities and 2017 is set to be a big year for a number of breakthrough technologies.

Figuring out what the next big thing is going to be and investing the right amount of time, money and resource will be key to keeping Deep Blue Telecom and our strategic partners, ahead of the curve.

TRENDS

5G: should be piloted by the end of the year but unlikely to be fully standardised until the end of the decade as the unrelenting march of IOT (Internet of Things) continues.

AI (Artificial intelligence): has been a major technology theme this year, from computers beating humans in games to the growing automation of previously human-only tasks such as customer service and logistics.

Cybercrime: 2016 was yet another record year during which more malware, malicious IPs, websites, and mobile apps were discovered than in any previous year.  There was a lot of talk about hacking during the US elections but the reality is that cyberwar has been going on for some time between various nations and it’s only likely to accelerate in 2017. We can expect attempts at major attacks, causing serious damage, occurring at both government infrastructure as well as commercial companies.

Ofcom has finally announced that it is proceeding with a formal notification to require the legal separation of OPENREACH from BT. With its own Board of Directors this will guarantee greater independence with a duty to treat all of its customers equally…albeit, 5 years too late.

ECONOMIC OUTLOOK

Economic volatility will continue to be a factor, so any product like Cloud telephony that reduces, or even eliminates, upfront capital outlay will be in demand. Customer confidence will be a key driver to continued recovery.

Buying habits will continue to be driven by technology with 2016 statistics suggesting that most people complete 64% of the purchase process before even engaging with suppliers. We believe this percentage will continue to increase during 2017.

IN CONCLUSION
Despite the challenges out there, the telecoms industry continues to be resilient and adaptive, growing and changing, as demand requires. At Deep Blue Telecom we take this ethos to heart, providing customer specific solutions that can change to the world around them. So if your New Year’s resolution is to overhaul your telecoms, why not give Deep Blue a call (0333 240 9100) today.

And who would have thought…we used to cell phones and fax machines a few years ago…Happy New Year!!

BT Openreach miss 1000 appointments a week

On Tuesday 15th March BT’s chief executive Gavin Patterson and Openreach’s director Kim Mears attended a meeting with MPs on the culture, media and sport select committee as part of an inquiry into the UK’s broadband connectivity.

They were faced with questions about Openreach’s poor record on broadband installations. During the discussion, it emerged that Openreach miss more than 1000 appointments a week. Patterson and Mears also faced claims that 60pc of Openreach broadband installations go wrong the first time around. While the allegation about bad installations was denied, Kim Mears did admit that missing multiple appointments was the company’s “biggest failing”.

It was also claimed that Openreach was the “number-one issue” that politicians hear about from their constituents.

Read the full article at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/03/15/bt-openreach-misses-1000-appointments-a-week-as-patterson-defend/

Storm Desmond

It’s been hard to miss the impact of storm Desmond over the last few days, bringing high winds and heavy rainfall on top of what has already been a pretty wet few weeks. Wind damage and flooding have caused, and continue to cause, disruption to many. Openreach, who are responsible for much of the UK’s telephony network, are one of the many organisations working to try and restore normality to those areas affected.

From collapsed bridges to flooded out vans, there is a lot to contend with. DSLAMs (devices that form part of the telecoms network) are capable of tolerating water up to 1/3 of their own depth but the flood levels from Desmond have seen almost 250 DSLAMs affected (60% of these are now back and operating).

Works are currently under way to provide an emergency line to a community in Glenridding who have been without service since the bridge carrying essential cabling collapsed and was washed away.

Fixing these issues obviously requires a lot of man power on Openreach’s side and this is having a knock on effect to lead times for standard repairs and provisioning, with this in mind we ask for and appreciate our customers patience if things take a little longer than normal to progress.

 

Letter to Alec Shelbrooke MP

As a business owner and active member of the local business networking community, Deep Blue’s Managing Director Ross Knapman recently wrote to local MP Alec Shelbrooke about the prospective take over of EE by BT, a copy of this letter can be found below:

I am writing to you as a constituent from Wetherby and a local Business owner who believes in supporting other local businesses with reliable yet affordable communication systems.

When helping our customers to decide on which provider offers the best service for their budget, the greater choice they have matters, therefore the recent decision to allow BT (fixed line provider) to merge with Everything Everywhere (EE Owners of the largest mobile network) gives me great cause for concern.

As your Government is committed to supporting SMEs, would Parliament consider looking more closely at the risks and impacts on what was and should remain, a competitive UK industry, preferably based on today’s market and not using the outdated 2003 Communications Act?

If the merger goes ahead with no protective measures to ensure all communication providers have an equal opportunity, won’t it lead to near monopoly situations, for example in the emergency sector where BT already handles all 999 calls and EE have recently been awarded the position of sole network provider for the Emergency Services Network?

Also as a member of FCS I would like to appraise you of their willingness to meet MPs in Westminster or in their constituency, FCS have been active in pre-merger discussions with Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority.

As you will be well aware Wetherby is a thriving market town with a lot of local businesses that actively support one another and I feel that communications is a vital, although often somewhat under estimated, component in the support structure and as such everyone should have a varied and competitive marketplace from which to make their choice.

Changes to non-geographic call charges

We’ve all seen it, the small print on adverts and TV shows under the non-geographic number saying ‘Calls cost 20p per minute from a BT landline. Other landlines may vary and calls from mobiles may cost considerably more.’ Great if you have a BT landline but not so helpful if you are calling from anywhere else.

In response to research showing that people are confused by how charging for service numbers works, Ofcom are bringing in changes to make it all a little clearer.

From the 1st July onwards the rate you pay per minute to call numbers beginning with 084, 087, 09 and 118 will consist of two parts:

Part 1 – The Access Charge – This part is determined by whoever bills you for your calls (such as Deep Blue)

Part 2 – The Service charge – This part is determined by Ofcom based on the number prefix

So what does this mean for you? From July 1st onwards any company using an 084, 087, 09 or 118  number will have to change the wording of their small print to make callers aware of both parts of the non-geographic call charge e.g. ‘Calls cost x pence per minute, plus your providers access charge.’