Internet phone systems frequently used by small and mid-sized businesses can be hacked by cybercriminals who use the company phone lines as part of a scam that attempts to get victims to give up their banking account information over the phone.

Unfortunately, companies that have their voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP) internet phones hacked by these criminals end up footing the bill while inadvertently playing a role in electronic fraud and identity theft.

According to IDG News Service, one VOIP phone system popular with small businesses, called Asterisk, is facing "endemic" abuse by hackers.

VOIP hacking is "a new frontier in the crossover world of telecom and cyber [crime]," assistant U.S. attorney Erez Liebermann said, according to IDG News. "It is an ongoing threat and a serious threat that companies need to be worried about."

According to the company that created the Asterisk phone system, hackers have published tools on the internet that make the hacking attacks easier to carry out.

The popular VOIP service Skype was recently targeted by a piece of malware that could intercept calls placed over the VOIP network for spying on private conversations.

In the current threat environment, many companies are looking at outsourcing IT operations to partners for managing security risks.

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