Feds' VoIP phone plan could have security holes, says expert

The federal government's plan to switch many of its landlines to VoIP phones could leave it vulnerable to hacks like last week's attack by online collective Anonymous, says one expert.

Government hopes to save $29M by getting rid of landlines

Last week's cyberattack on federal government websites is raising concerns about the government's plan to switch many of its landlines over to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones.

According to Shared Services Canada, more than 120,000 traditional landlines have already been removed or replaced with VoIP technology, which uses a high-speed internet connection as a phone line instead of a regular analog line.

Shared Services says the government hopes to save $29 million this year by making the switch.

The security technology is catching up, but slowly.- David Skillicorn

But those savings come with a potential cost, according to David Skillicorn with the School of Computing at Queen's University.

"(VoIP) is, at this moment, a little bit easier to hack. If you want to hack somebody's local telephone call you have to climb up a pole and clip things onto the wire," said Skillicorn.

"The security technology is catching up, but slowly." 

Because of those potential security weaknesses, federal departments where secure communication is a high priority won't be ditching their landlines any time soon, Skillicorn added.

Hacker collective Anonymous has claimed responsibility for last week's attacks, which briefly blacked out websites belonging to the Senate, the Department of Justice and Canada's spy agencies, CSEC and CSIS. 

Anonymous claimed the attack was launched to protest Bill C-51, the government's recently passed anti-terror bill.

No personal information or sensitive government was compromised by the hack, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said shortly afterwards.