NEW YORK -- Verizon is urging customers who use voice mail and telecommunications systems known as private branch exchanges (PBXs) to use secure passwords to prevent telephone hackers from using these systems illegally. PBXs typically are used by large businesses.
The company's warning, including a voice mail message sent from Verizon to its consumer and business voice mail customers, is in response to growing industry concern about hackers who illegally access home or business phone systems, in some cases leaving customers with thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges for long-distance and other services.
"Verizon is aware that hackers attempt to access voice mail and use PBXs by trying simple passwords," said John Lewandowski, a security manager for the company. "Customers should protect themselves and their companies by taking measures to foil these hackers."
Verizon is part of an industry-wide effort to crack down against voice mail and PBX hackers and alert customers to the dangers of using passwords that are not secure.
"Voice mail hackers currently operating out of the Far East and elsewhere are believed to be responsible for huge long-distance bills charged to U.S. home phone lines, businesses and government agencies," Lewandowski said.
To deter hackers, Verizon urges its voice mail customers and other customers who use PBX equipment to take the following steps:
- If you are using a temporary password assigned when your service was activated, replace it with a password that is easy for you to remember but difficult for someone else to guess. Do not use the last four digits of your telephone number, your date of birth, digits that spell your last name or other obvious combinations.
- Do not reveal your password to others.
- If you need help changing your password, call your local Verizon business office or the administrator of your telecommunications system.
- Change your password often. If you write down your password, keep it in a secure location.
- If you have several mailboxes for other members of your household, each user should select a secure password.
- Delete all inactive mailboxes.
- Block collect-call options on PBX systems.
- Block or limit access to international calls. If your company does not need to call internationally, completely block this capability.
- If you have a PBX system that allows callers to transfer to other extensions, block all digits that callers could use to access outside lines.
- Restrict the number of log-on attempts to five or fewer.
- In the event that someone gains entry to your voice mailbox or PBX system, change the password immediately. Then notify the provider of your voice mail system or telecommunications equipment as soon as possible.
Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 135.1 million access line equivalents and 30.3 million Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. With more than $67 billion in annual revenues and approximately 241,000 employees, Verizon's global presence extends to more than 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.