Tag Archives: Internet

What is VoIP?

VoIP

Voice Over Internet Protocol, aka VoIP, is a way in which voice and multimedia sessions take place over the Internet rather than through a traditional phone service. Users also refer to Voice over Internet Protocol as Internet telephony, broadband telephony, or broadband phone service, a service that is not new, but has been gaining popularity. Unlike plain old telephone service (POTS), VoIP does not need a service plan or a static telephone number. Anyone can use the system for free, from anywhere in the world.

How does VoIP work?

Voice over IP uses a Packet-Switching Technology Network (PSTN) instead of a Circuit-Switched Network (CSN), which is used by landlines. With CSN, an analog signal must go through a network of copper wire cables to connect two points. In contrast, PST reduces digital signals into small data packets. The PSTN transmits the data over the Internet sending and receiving voice calls. Since VoIP uses the Internet, it doesn’t use copper wiring. Therefore, it is easily portable.

One of the main differences with VoIP is that the number is tied to the user, not the device on which it is used. Traditional phone numbers are linked to a specific device: your landline has its own number and so does your cell phone. Think of VoIP technology like your email address. The email is attached to you, not your computer. You can log into your email from any device in the world. VoIP numbers work the same way; you to make phone calls anywhere on any device via VoIP software.

What is SIP?

You may have heard the acronym SIP in reference to VoIP. SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol. It does the work behind that scenes that allows VoIP to appear on stage. SIP is the signaling protocol that lets calls connect and disconnect. It also allows features like video conferencing and group chat to take place in real time.

A Brief History

Internet calling has been in use for decades. It started in 1973 when ARPANET used the first transmissions to take place using the Internet. The second breakthrough happened in 1991 when Speak Freely, the first VoIP app, was released to the public. In 1995, VoIP became profitable when Israeli telecom company VocalTec released InternetPhone. Users could register and use the app to make calls worldwide without paying outrageous long distance fees. PBX and SIP arrived in 1996. 2003 saw the biggest breakthrough to date when Skype was released. Skype is credited with creating the video chatting era.

The first mobile VoIP service was released in 2006, one year after the first cell phone enabled for Wi-Fi. In 2010, Apple introduced FaceTime and the rest is mobile device history.

The rise in VoIP is staggering. In 2001, VoIP phone calls accounted for less than 5 percent of business calls in the U.S. By 2011, the number jumped to 31 percent. It was predicted that in 2019, the business VoIP industry will net over $86 billion dollars in revenue and have 204.8 billion global subscribers.

Three Ways to Use VoIP

While all VoIP phone calls are made using wireless or broadband Internet through a local area network, there are three ways to place a call.

Analog Telephone Adapters (ATAs)

An analog telephone adapter transforms analog PSTN connected phones into VoIP phones. As with all Voice over Internet Protocol, audio signals from analog phones are converted into data packets. ATAs are the only way to change a traditional phone into a VoIP-enabled device.

Voice over Internet Protocol Phones

VoIP phones are the only devices that do not require special hardware or software. They look like an analog phone, but do not use a traditional phone system. Smartphones can use VoIP simply by visiting a website or downloading an app.

Computer-to-Computer

Computers can make VoIP calls simply by using VoIP software or by visiting the VoIP provider’s website. Unlike VoIP phones, computer-to-computer connections require the receiver to have an active Internet connection.

Pros and Cons of VoIP

There are several pros and cons to using a VoIP phone number. Voice over Internet Protocol can offer a ton of different features that your current telephone service may not have. Call forwarding to smartphones or desktop computers, international calls, and other communications services are easily handled with Voice over IP. Most IP telephony services also offer video conferencing, chat, and file-share options. Users may opt to be anonymous for various reasons including personal or professional privacy or for developing targeted marketing services.

Pros

  • Pros also include being able to choose your own phone number, with any area code or exchange. People use VoIP for many reasons.
  • Calls can be made from anywhere in the world using a landline, computer, smartphone or other Internet enabled device. Long-distance and international Voice over Internet Protocol calls are free of charge.
  • Many VoIP systems are free to use.
  • Add-ons are often free or at low cost. These include video conferencing, instant messaging, call forwarding, fax services, unlimited calling, voicemail, group chats, and more.
  • Voice over IP offers maximum mobility.
  • VoIP services have a higher level of security than traditional business lines.

Cons

  • Users may choose to hide their identity to protect themselves when they are involved in illegal activity.
  • People use VoIP even though it can only be used with an internet connection or a phone’s mobile hot spot.
  • Another con is that Voice over IP cannot be used without an internet connection.
  • VoIP cannot make 911 emergency calls; emergency services are unable to pinpoint the caller’s location.

Hidden Identity

Voice over Internet Protocol services only know what information you put in when you sign up, so it can be anonymous. The service only requires Internet service and a valid email account, which can also be anonymous, so tracing the number may be almost impossible. Scammers use the system because it gives them cover from the police and prosecution reducing the risk of being caught.

Locating the Caller

You can trace a phone number by doing a reverse phone number. The search will find if the number is traditional or Internet-based. You may be able to locate an IP address for the VoIP number, but unless you are highly tech savvy, chances are you won’t be able to know who is using the number. However, law enforcement has tools which may be able to locate the origin of the calls.

Google Voice is a popular Voice over IP service. While the service many be anonymous, Google collects and shares information with third parties that may help to track the caller. Google does not have a directory of its Voice over IP numbers. Such efforts would be pointless since the numbers change all the time. You should use the following tips to track the number:

Phone books. You can use a reverse phone search to find the number, even if it’s a VoIP number. If you think the number is fake, you can check online phone directories to see if it has been reported. You can search Facebook to see if the person has added the number to their social media profile.

Protecting Yourself

Voice over Internet Protocol numbers are untraceable for the most part. Phone systems have not yet been able to identify the numbers; however, some reverse phone search engines can determine the origin of the number. If you receive a call from a VoIP phone number, treat it as if it is fake unless you have a prearranged agreement with the caller. No matter how a caller contacts you, never give out personal information to a stranger. You should report any suspicious activity to the police immediately.

Protecting Your Kids Online

Parents Protecting Children on the Internet

Everyone knows that you can’t have your eyes on your children 24/7, especially if they are in school and spending time away from home. Sometimes it must be enough to educate your kids as best as possible, exercise reasonable care, and hope for the best. Parents should teach kids how to be safe online, especially since children spent a great deal of time on the Internet. It’s true that kids are generally more tech savvy than their parents. But that tech know-how doesn’t have anything to do with being safe online. Kids are trusting and naïve. They need watchdogs to protect them.

Safe Sites

There have been safeguards for kids almost since the Internet was invented. However, those tech savvy kids can get around those blocks with little effort. Before turning your kid loose on the internet, set strict guidelines including the amount of time spent online as well as which sites are acceptable and safe.

Steps to Take

  1. Use safety features on websites. Let’s use YouTube as an example since it’s one of the most popular sites. If you’re using a desktop, scroll down to the bottom of the screen to the “Restricted Mode” setting. This setting will hide videos that contain inappropriate content. For the mobile app, click on the three dots (top right) to get to Settings > General. Scroll down until you see the “Restricted Mode” option.
  2. Set privacy controls on social media accounts. First, make sure that the children are old enough and mature enough to use social media. Discuss what is appropriate and limit who can see their posts.
  3. Use separate accounts for adults and kids.
  4. Set up separate accounts for your kids on your computers
  5. Use kid-safe search engines and browsers.
  6. Limit the time your child spends online.
  7. Use only safe chat rooms
  8. Teach your children not to talk to strangers. While great friendships can be made online, there is a great danger that children are being approached by predators. Teach kids to maintain a safe distance. If the stranger wants your child to call or text, iPhone app to see who a phone number belongs to and note it just in case.
  9. Teach your children about “sexting.” The Justice Department has stated that the biggest threat to children is something called “sextortion.” People send graphic messages or pictures which can cause lasting psychological damage.
  10. Avoid file sharing. Aside from being illegal, sharing files, e.g., music, videos, etc. can be a doorway to getting a virus on your phone or computer.
  11. Discuss cyberbullying. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have reported that cyberbullying affects up to 15% percent of children. The percentage is higher for kids who are minorities, disabled, overweight, or LGBTQ.

For more tips, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information website.

Cyberstalkers and Their Victims

Cyberstalking

Cyberstalking is the use of social media, phone calls, text messages, email, and other forms of technology to threaten, harass, pursue, intimidate or steal a person’s information for personal gain. For that reason, anyone who uses the Internet can be a target. Cyberstalkers are often driven by jealousy, anger, hatred, infatuation, revenge, and lust or obsession. Some might suffer from mental illness. Some cyberstalkers, known as Internet Trolls, will harass Internet users for no good reason. A cyberstalker could be a stranger, but most likely is someone the victim knows. The stalker could be an ex, someone from school, co-worker, someone with whom you’ve had an argument or fight, or even a fan or potential love interest.

The Four Types of Cyberstalkers

Cyberstalkers cause a lot of trouble for their victims with rumors, false allegations, lies, harassment, or even identity theft. Cyberstalking can include cyberbullying, which takes place between kids. Cyberstalking may also include inappropriate actions, including those of a sexual nature. Research has shown that there are four basic types of cyberstalkers. They are:

  • Vindictive: Cyberstalkers who want to get revenge or harm another person. They often engage in personal attacks;
  • Composed: Those whose want to annoy the victim;
  • Intimate: One who wants to have a relationship (friendship or love) with the victim. Therefore, cyberstalkers can turn violent if turned away;
  • Collective: A group of cyberstalkers who attack an individual or group for a specific cause.

The Harmful Result

Stalking causes a great deal of harm to the victim. It can ruin marriages, self-esteem, careers, or someone’s credit. Cyberbullies have been the cause of many children committing suicide. Obsessions can move from cyberspace to real-world stalking. Cyberstalkers may claim that they mean no harm, although what is being done may be extremely harmful and often illegal. Victims may not know they are being stalked. The stalker could use spyware or other means of tracking Internet use behind the scenes. You should increase your security if you think that you are being tracked in some way. Take extra precautions.

Precautions

Protect yourself by taking simple precautions. Regardless of how careful you are, it’s possible to become a target. However, you can avoid becoming a victim of cyberstalking, despite the method used to target you.

  • Restrict access to your computer, smartphone, and other devices. Leaving your computer open can allow hackers to alter the system and add software for tracking purposes.
  • Password protection. You should protect all devices with unique passwords to keep from being stalked. Use a web-based password vault to store passwords and change passwords often. Never use the same password for more than one program. Above all, avoid using passwords such as children’s or pets’ names or birthdays.
  • Sign out of computer programs when finished, especially on social media accounts.
  • Search your name online to see what information is available to the public. Do the same for family members.
  • Tell friends and family that you do not want your personal information on their social media accounts. Remove such info wherever possible.
  • Keep online calendars and plans private.
  • Post with care. If you post something, it is nearly impossible to take it back. This includes photographs.
  • Don’t announce travel plans or sharing where you will be on a certain date and time.
  • Use anti-virus, spyware, malware and anti-tracking software on all devices.
  • Teach children how to be smart about Internet use and to report any strange behavior immediately.
  • Don’t give out personal information such as your address, social security number, or bank information.
  • Hackers can obtain all information provided online.
  • Don’t get involved in online arguments.
  • Never open attachments from unknown sources.
  • Use screen names that are age and gender neutral.
  • Check the status of bank and credit card accounts on a regular basis.
  • Set up new emails for dating websites and social media accounts.

Cyberstalked? Now What?

If you see signs of cyberstalking, act right away. Police and other agencies often have cyber divisions that can help with the legal aspects of the crime and how to protect yourself.

  • Take suspicions seriously.
  • Report any possible illegal activity.
  • Avoid any contact with suspected cyberstalkers.
  • Record and block any email or phone numbers used to contact you with harassing messages. Use an iPhone cell phone trace app to check unknown numbers.
  • Change your account passwords.
  • Change email accounts.
  • Remove personal information on social media profiles and dating websites.
  • Reset privacy settings on all accounts and programs.
  • Delete online accounts if necessary.
  • Inform family and friends of the event.
  • Be aware of any real-life stalking activity.

In conclusion, it seems that cyberstalking is here to stay. However, if you are mindful, you can stay safe.