SME hit with $120,000 phone bill after hackers take control of VoIP

An entrepreneur in Western Australia has been hit with a $120,000 phone bill after hackers took control of his internet phone system and made 11,000 international calls in 46 hours.

An entrepreneur in Western Australia has been hit with a $120,000 phone bill after hackers took control of his internet phone system and made 11,000 international calls in 46 hours.

The businessman was also charged more than $150,000 between June and December last year as a result of hacking, with a total of 115,000 international calls made in the same period.

WA Police Technology Crime Investigation officers said the man’s VoIP PBX system was taken control of by an unauthorised user or users. Officers also said despite cyber-crimes becoming much more common, large bills amounting to thousands of dollars were a surprise.

Reasons for the excessive bill could include a fraudulent call centre, or a service offering low-cost international calls to customers through the businessman’s private phone line.

Russell Smith, principal criminologist at the Australian Institute of Criminology, said this type of crime is nothing new.

“It started back in the 1970s when PBX systems were first introduced, and criminals used a range of strategies to bypass the billing systems on ordinary landline phones in various forms ever since then. And obviously the crooks are starting to look at the vulnerability of VoIP systems as well.”

Smith said businesses must install proper security systems in order to keep their phone lines safe from attack.

“Setting up new systems and having them configured properly is an important thing businesses need to look at. Make sure to use trusted IT consultants, check out credentials of businesses you’re dealing with, do background checks, do references. These are just the start of standard fraud prevent measures,” he says.

“The other thing is if you have the facility to regularly check your phone bills online, then its worth having an employee whose job is to monitor those. This is so you don’t leave it for a month or two months until a physical bill arrives in the mail, so if a compromise does take place you can stop it straight away.”

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