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How Safe is Your Phone System?

When considering security, make sure you’re protecting the data on your phones, too

In July 2011, the world saw just how vulnerable voicemail systems can be when a phone hacking scandal took down the News of the World newspaper and created a huge public backlash against News Corp. and its CEO Rupert Murdoch. Reporters were illegally intercepting voicemail messages left for the British Royal Family, celebrities, British soldiers, and others in their quest to scoop stories. Public figures’ voicemail messages aren’t likely to reveal product secrets, credit card numbers, or confidential business strategies, but your employees’ voicemails can. Voicemail systems can be configured insecurely and easily hacked—if you don’t take the right precautions.

Whether you have an analog or IP-based phone system, your company’s private voicemails are vulnerable. Most voicemail systems require only a simple four-digit personal identification number (PIN) to protect a user’s voicemail, and hackers have a few different methods for figuring out those numbers and gaining access to voice mailboxes, including caller-ID spoofing, and social engineering.

The good news is that deleted voicemail messages can’t be hacked. Therefore, the easiest and most effective step you can take in securing your voicemail system is encouraging your employees to delete sensitive messages as soon as they’ve listened to them.

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Using Mobility to free you from the desktop – What we’ve learned about deploying Cisco Unified Mobility

Last week, I described what Cisco Unified Mobility is and what it does for me and the other thousands of employees at Cisco.  Today, let me tell you about the deployment process and what we learned.

Cisco IT Implementation

Cisco Unified Mobility requires our Cisco Unified Communications Managers to be on version 7.1 or above, and we started deploying the service soon after we’d upgraded to 7.1.  We deployed Cisco Unified Mobility in each of our 13 Cisco Unified Communications Manager clusters, rolling out the service on a site-by-site basis. This gradual transition process helped to smooth the impact of supporting users and the potential for spikes in outbound calls as employees began working with the SNR feature.  At first, we worried that a large number of calls going out to mobile phones from Cisco sites might overwhelm smaller outbound trunks, but so far we haven’t seen any problems there.  Also, our gradual site-based rollout made it easy to avoid countries that do not allow outbound calling from our private VoIP network to the PSTN (primarily in the Middle East, and in India).

One implementation decision may be a surprise:

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Using Mobility to free you from the desktop – What we’ve gained by deploying Cisco Unified Mobility

A lot of our employees, especially salespeople, seem to work everywhere except at their desks. Reaching them used to mean making multiple calls to multiple numbers, and leaving messages at each one.  And waiting for an important phone call sometimes meant that you were tied to your desk until it came through.

Now, with Single Number Reach (SNR) — a feature of Cisco Unified Mobility —  I can receive business calls wherever I want to  be reached at the moment­--at my desk, at home, or on my mobile phone. And if I can’t answer, Cisco Unified Mobility gets all my messages sent to a single voicemail box.  There’s also a Mobility feature that lets me transfer calls from my office phone to my mobile phone, and back again – without anyone on the other end knowing I’ve changed phones.   This helps when I pick up an important call at my desk, but need to take care of something that takes me away from the desk phone.  Sometimes I’ve got to get in the car and can use my Bluetooth headset to finish the conversation.

My current SNR profile is configured to route calls to my mobile inside of normal working hours, and then to push them to voicemail on weekends.  I even have an access control list (ACL) to allow my manager’s calls to pass through to the mobile number at any day/hour.  He does respect normal work hours but we do know emergencies happen from time to time and it is important to be accessible.

All of these Cisco Unified Mobility features were made available to 80,000 phones in our company, by activating them on in our eighteen production Unified Communications server clusters around the world. The truly impressive thing about the Cisco Unified Mobility service is that it can scale to companies of any size.  The benefits to the individual user apply no matter if you are an 8 or 80,000 person company.  Mobility benefits the individual most.

From our deployment activity, we learned valuable lessons for our customers about implementation decisions, feature adoption by users, and the resulting business benefits.

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