The security hazards of voice mail.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the January 1999 issue of . Subscribe »

Sometimes nightmares you never even imagined come true. That's what happened when Jacqueline Hallihan learned a former employee was breaking into her investment consulting firm's voice-mail system. Hacking into the system up to a dozen times a day, the salesperson erased client messages, listened to personal messages and even transferred potentially damaging messages to other employees.

"There's a four or five month void of not having any idea [who called]," says Hallihan, owner of National Regulatory Services Inc. in Lakeville, Connecticut. "It was a real invasion of privacy."

The FBI and state police conducted a six-month investigation that resulted in a felony conviction for computer crime. "We had to keep letting him do it until they could prove it," says Hallihan. "That was one of the more difficult things."

Voice mail can be hacked by former employees, competitive companies or even mischief-makers. To avoid a similar crisis, examine your security measures. The Multi Messaging Educational Committee offers these suggestions:

  • Base your voice-mail system in a room with controlled access. Change access passwords regularly, and only issue them to authorized personnel.
  • Monitor system reports to identify bad-password disconnects, unused mailboxes and any odd after-hours system activity.
  • Distribute voice-mail security policies to all employees.
  • Require employees to change passwords periodically. They shouldn't use obvious passwords like their birthday, child's name or social security number.
  • Never program your password into speed-dial keys on your phone, and never write down your password or give it to others.

Speak Easy

Communicate like the pros.

When a client calls your company, can he or she access each employee's or department's mailbox, or request information from your fax-on-demand service? Does your computer log each fax or call, and are you notified immediately on your pager or cell phone? Symantec's TalkWorks PRO 2.0 lets the smallest of companies communicate like masters with advanced voice and fax messaging capabilities.

For $169 (street), TalkWorks PRO will provide you with all these services, as well as let you use prerecorded greetings or create your own and have them automatically change after hours. The on-screen executive telephone and answering machine lets you take control easily, and wizards guide you through effortless setups. TalkWorks PRO requires Windows 95/NT, a Pentium processor, 8MB RAM (16MB recommended) and a compatible voice/fax modem. A sound card, speakers and a microphone are also recommended, and some functions require caller ID capabilities. Call (800) 441-7234 or visit http://www.symantec.com for more information.

First Rate

AT&T simplifies cell phone billing.

If you use your cell phone often, AT&T has a service plan designed especially for you. Taking the pain out of lengthy billing statements with multiple rates, the AT&T Digital One Rate plan charges the same rate for all calls. There are no extra roaming fees or long distance charges--only a higher rate (25 cents per minute) if you surpass your allotted monthly air time. Monthly service plans range from 600 to 1,400 minutes (about 15 cents to 11 cents per minute respectively).

The AT&T Digital One Rate plan requires the purchase of an AT&T Digital multinetwork phone and offers Digital PCS services, including text messaging, voice mail and caller ID. Call (800) IMAGINE or visit http://www.attws.com for details.

Contact Source

National Regulatory Services Inc.,hallihan@nrs-inc.com,/a>

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