General Telephony

DDoS Attack Makes the Biggest Internet Players Stumble

ddos attackThe very foundation of the internet was rattled on Friday as a result of a DDoS attack on Dyn, one of the most pivotal service providers for some of the biggest websites out there. Dyn is a cloud-based internet management company that helps monitor, optimize, and control internet infrastructure for large clients. There’s probably a lot to clarify here for some of you, but before we get into that, I want to stress how the interconnectivity of the security of your own personal computer and the overall health of the internet are connected. Yes, you read that right, DDoS attacks and your own personal computing habits are more linked than you probably thought. Buckle up, here we go…

And DDoS Attacks are What, Exactly?

DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks are widespread disruptive attacks on targets that result in temporary shutdowns. Pronounced as either “D-Dos” or “D-D-Oh-S,” these are deceptively much more harmful than is commonly understood. First, they are distributed in the sense that it is essentially the overwhelming of a system with a massive amount of queries. The denial of service then results from the subsequent shutting down of a system overwhelmed by the sheer volume of traffic that it encounters. Now, with some familiarity on what a DDoS attack is, considering that Dyn was the target of the attack, that’s why sites like Amazon, Spotify, CNN, GitHub, Twitter and so many others all experienced downtime. But other than impacting your ability to see what was trending or go shopping for a while, what does that really have to do with you? The answer may be a bit disturbing.

That Sounds Terrible, I’d Like to Prevent It

We have told you before about updating the software and firmware on all of your devices but this DDoS attack is just more evidence why it’s so important. During a DDoS attack, the forces behind it will simulate millions of users trying to access a system to bring it to its capacity. As it turns out, some of the simulated access points may have been coming from personal computers that had previously accessed any of the affected sites but that also haven’t been updated to the latest security patches on their operating systems. And considering how many huge websites were affected, this could be virtually almost every single device out there. Additionally, some of the access points may have come from hardware with faulty firmware, though that is more difficult to protect against.

It’s a Delicate Web

The point is that barring the use of a bit of compromised hardware that, thankfully, is a problem few and far between, we all need to consider ourselves responsible for the overall health and safety of the internet. Sure, that’s a big responsibility, but one that isn’t too dissimilar to that of voting or driving on the right side of the road. In many ways, this is just the next logical step that we all need to take in doing our part to make sure our common areas are kept in good working order. Because, just like the neighborhood park, if everyone leaves one piece of trash behind it doesn’t take long for the whole block to look terrible.

Businesses Are More Vulnerable

Besides being responsible stewards of our own personal internet footprint, we have even more to consider with our professional internet use. Professional services that optimize your business network connections do more than boost your speed and efficiency. Higher-touch web monitoring and maintenance services like VirtualPBX Network Monitoring ensure that your network is in top shape while also keeping you up to date on all of the pertinent security patches your business needs to stay safe. And when something like this DDoS attack does occur upstream that you can’t defend against, at least knowing your system is fortified against anything will keep you and your customers prepared to weather the storm.

For more ways to protect yourself in this increasingly connected world, make sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Until we have more tips for you, though, make sure to go search for updates on your device!

Game of Phones: Kazoo 4.0 and KazooCon First Day Recap

game-of-phonesFirst things first, I wish I could take credit for that super catchy play on words, but alas that credit belongs to the folks at 2600Hz. That’s the theme of the much-anticipated KazooCon 2016 After Party, and yes, you can bet your bottom dollar we’ll be there. However, one thing I can’t guarantee is that Las Vegas rules won’t apply – as in, what happens at KazooCon stays at KazooCon. Either way, I’ll keep you posted. In addition to coming up with fun ways for telephone engineers to unwind, the clever folks at 2600Hz have spent most of the day making sure we’re waist-deep in the latest and greatest feature of their all-new platform, Kazoo 4.0. Now, for many of you who are super excited about the ins and outs of the newest technology from 2600Hz, I regret to inform you that the technical information about the update made my brain melt a little. However, all is not lost! You can get every little bit of information on the update online by visiting Kazoo 4.0 on GitHub.

Not All for the Engineers

With so much having been accomplished over the past year at 2600Hz, needless to say, Kazoo 4.0 is just the tip of the iceberg. That being the case, once again presenting on the State of the Union was 2600Hz COO, Patrick Sullivan. Patrick was keen to stress a lot of the functionality of the new Kazoo platform, of course, but there were several other key takeaways fro his keynote –

  • Even having a bigger, badder, and much more intuitive Kazoo UI is no reason to throw out the old system entirely and therefore the old Kazoo UI will remain available for archiving on GitHub.
  • Because relationships are so important to the development of Kazoo, so too is an equivalently important support system for the people who use it. That’s why there’s a totally new Kazoo Support System that, based on how good this new platform looks, likely won’t be a place you spend a lot of time at.
  • Reinforcement of the policy of “Open Core vs Open Source” which is a new way for people to choose to contribute chains of code to the master technology or to create proprietary products from the original. This supports the many entrepreneurs who rely on Kazoo as the basis of their own products.

Looking Forward to a Bright Future

Ultimately, whether it was from the product team behind Kazoo 4.0, leaders of regional telecom reselling companies, or even the CPO of Vonage, Omar Javaid, there was one consistent theme throughout the day. Specifically, the state of technology makes this a very exciting time to be in hosted communications, both as a supplier or a consumer. The added functionality of the hardware and software available is redefining how we will communicate with each other beyond whatever we could have imagined. Additionally, insofar as the Kazoo 4.0 platform is concerned, Patrick Sullivan eloquently mentioned that holistic improvements from software, hardware, and servers all contribute to eliminate uncertainty in service. And no matter where you fall on the telecom user/engineer spectrum, that’s something we can all get behind.

More to Come

Remember that you can follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook for updates on KazooCon 2016. We’ll be back tomorrow with even more from the biggest event in the hosted business telephone business!

Tech Talks- Halloween Help From Customer Support

tech talks halloween help

Taylor Smith, Support Supervisor and Halloween Guide Extrordinaire

We’ve been around for a long time and have collected some of the best minds from across several industries, and we think it’s high time they got their day in the spotlight. In this series of blogs we’ll be unearthing some of the technology and talent that power our hosted communications platform.

Ghosts in the machine, gremlins on the wings of planes, and all of that wacky, head-exploding craziness from the movie Scanners- what do they all have in common? In addition to being fun movie topics for a month of Halloween, they also combine some sort of ghoulishness with technology. Coincidentally, so does our Tech Talks focus for today, Taylor Smith.

dead-time-dreamsTaylor was the perfect fit for this edition of Tech Talks because, though he is a Support Supervisor at VirtualPBX by day, by night he has a much more intriguing pastime. Taylor has been supporting and performing in Dead Time Dreams, the long-running haunted house based here in San Jose, California. It was between building and operating this year’s haunted house that we caught up with Taylor to talk.

Okay, first things first, what got you into the haunted house gig?
I’ve always enjoyed Halloween and have had connections into various theatrical scenes in the area and eventually those two interests intersected. Honestly, it’s a lot like VirtualPBX in the sense that there’s just a bunch of people who enjoy doing something, do it well, and want to bring it out for others to benefit from.

Good point. That said, what is it in your professional experience that makes being a Support Supervisor a natural fit for you?
Well on one hand, acting is all about empathy. If you can’t get into the mindset of your character, delivering a convincing performance is going to be tough. In a similar way, though, empathy is the second most important thing for delivering high-quality customer support. Whenever someone calls in, I don’t instantly know how their day is going, what is riding on their business’ success, or even what kind of day they’re having. What I do know is that we wouldn’t be talking if everything was 100% perfect, and that’s not good. Because I understand that, I am really motivated to help get them back to what is really important in their lives and to making sure their phone system is taking care what it needs to.

I understand you worked a little in education, too, how does that impact a support role?
Absolutely! First of all, you want to talk about scary Halloween stories? Try taking on a class of disengaged middle schoolers! But seriously it was great, I taught science classes and tutored for years and that has been really helpful for me. Both in strategies on how to perform as a Supervisor but also in the variety of ways any topic can be taught. All of our customers have unique circumstances when they call, and not everyone learns the same way. Working in Support is a great exercise in creative ways to bring people to new understandings about their phone system. Plus I never have to send anyone to the principal’s office, either.

The Nightmare on Elm StreetThat’s awesome. Now a bit of rapid fire Halloween questions. What’s your favorite candy for trick or treating?
Cookies and Cream Bars.
What’s your favorite Halloween costume?
Rufio from Hook.
Ooh, respect. Okay, best Halloween movie indulgence?
Nightmare on Elm Street.
And what’s the best way to keep terrifying students engaged with science classes?
Keep it simple and blow stuff up. Of course, anything with dry ice is always a safe bet, too.

I can concur on the awesome experiments, too. There is no way I would have made it through chemistry without some green flames or frozen bananas once in a while. What isn’t an experiment, though, is what you’re going to get if you ever have to drop a line on Taylor or any member of his Customer Support Team at VirtualPBX. He and many more smiling, but sometimes scary, faces will be there to greet you at the door. That is, of course, if you dare!

We’re Almost There – The Final Countdown to KazooCon 2016

Countdown to KazooCon 2016We know it’s likely something that you’ve already purchased tickets for, but VirtualPBX and 2600Hz teamed-up with the hosted telecommunications industry’s best and brightest to bring you KazooCon 2016. What you might not realize, however, is that the final countdown to KazooCon 2016 is almost up. That’s right, we’ll be seeing you and hundreds of the world’s most influential players in VoIP at the historic Broadway Theater next week!

Things to Look Forward To

To be completely honest, this subject could take up an entire series of blog posts all to itself, but the fact is that there are a few must-see-moments to make note of during the countdown to KazooCon. Unmistakably, the networking and educational benefits of mingling with the men and women who are the backbone of the business phone industry cannot be overstated. Also new for 2016 and for the foodie in all of us are the selections from San Francisco’s famous food truck community that will power attendees through the information-packed presentations. What isn’t new, however, is the intrigue that surrounds whatever new product announcements that 2600Hz will be making at the event- trust me, we’ve been trying to find out ourselves for weeks and can’t wait! But of course, possibly the most intruiging twist to the event will be what organizers have put together for the After Party. Sorry, we’ve been sworn to secrecy on that one. And finally, the inclusion of the new business panel on telecom reselling with special guest appearance by our very own COO, Lon Baker, is a “can’t-miss” if there ever was one.

So Are You Packed & Ready?

The countdown to KazooCon 2016 began when the curtains drew closed at last year’s event, and all the sand is almost out of the hourglass. This year’s new format, powerful speakers, and exciting and crowd-pleasing structure make KazooCon a perennial powerhouse event and certainly one not worth missing. You can also stay up-to-date on all of the other must-see events we work on along with any new product information by signing up for our newsletter.

If you still want to buy a last second ticket for more of your team to attend (because you’ve already gotten yours, of course), there’s still time but hurry because the countdown to KazooCon is all but finished. If all of your spots are saved, though, make sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook for all of our live updates from the event, and maybe even to save you a spot in line for the food trucks.

The Cyber Boogeyman: Yahoo Email Surveillance

computer boogeyman email surveillanceIt seems like only a moment ago that we last reported on a massive security concern at Yahoo, mostly because it was. Now on the heels of the historic Yahoo account hack they’re back in the news with something that many people may find even more unsettling. It was reported earlier this week that Yahoo colluded with federal investigators to institute a widespread email surveillance campaign using their spam filter technology. And seeing as how we celebrate Halloween all month around here at VirtualPBX, unwarranted email surveillance seems like an appropriate campfire story to tell in Silicon Valley.

How Yahoo Email Surveillance Works

As reported by the New York Times, Yahoo’s cooperation with the feds to monitor potentially billions of personal email messaging was alarmingly simple. The company merely duplicated their spam filter and recalibrated it to focus on keywords and phrases that the government was interested in. Plus, as it turns out, we may have unknowingly assisted them in the process. Much like the algorithms that power the Yahoo search engine itself, our participation with email messages, flagging of spam, and engagement with content all serve to improve the efficacy of the core technology behind this email surveillance. Effectively, every minute we spent anywhere within the Yahoo network of services was merely adding potency to the tools they used to monitor Yahoo email accounts. We won’t likely ever know what those topics were and it’s unclear what the exact dates and scope of the email surveillance occurred during, but it’s safe to say that the potential widespread violation of privacy is unprecedented.

How to Protect Yourself

The official company statement was vague enough to not confirm or deny that something like this email surveillance ever occurred but pointed enough to say they don’t have this exact system in place today. Comforting, right? Moving forward, this may have damaged public opinion for Yahoo bad enough that people will begin flocking to other email clients nonetheless. While it’s fairly obvious that no company would ever admit to currently conducting widespread email surveillance without a court order, you can be safe to say that the other big email options claim to not participate in this practice. Of course, for the more cynical or merely the more cautious of you out there, other private electronic communications options do exist.

If you want to move on from Yahoo, start by deleting your account and then research these alternate, and heavily encrypted communications options. What you won’t find in them is a lot of the integration or maybe the high-gloss design you’re accustomed to, but where they lack in APIs they excel in tinfoil hat levels of paranoid protection. If you want even more coverage than from just the platforms you communicate over, you can take it one step further and start using Yahoo surveillance blocking phones that are built to be as untraceable as your new private email server.

Ultimately It’s a Choice

Whether you are all-in with the Big Brother conspiracies and live off the grid or you freely share your data with all of the companies that sell it to marketers who want to know more about you, there is clearly a gradient of cyber participation that dictates, to a degree, your cyber security. That said, it’s tough to argue that warrantless email surveillance is a good thing no matter how embedded a user chooses to be with technology. What I want to stress is that while there are some cyber boogeymen like this one out there that we can never fully anticipate, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have a safe and private cyber life if you just take the right precautions.

For more on the topic of corporations violating our civil rights and the tips and tricks to protect yourself in this increasingly connected world, make sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. And though this cyber boogeyman story is one for the books, just try not to scare your coworkers during the next team building ropes-course out in the woods with it.

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