THE RISE IN the adoption of voice over internet protocol (VoIP) for long-distance phone calls means that many companies, particularly smaller ones that do not spend much on security, are opening themselves up to attacks, according to Jonathan Zar, senior director of SonicWALL, a security company that specialises in firewalls. 'Voice over IP services in Asia are on the rise. When we look at the VoIP development in Asia, Korea and Japan have been two early adopters and remain the most sophisticated with VoIP enabled applications,' Mr Zar said. 'We believe IP telephony will become mainstream in 2005, as seen by the increased number of deployments across the region in [the] last year,' he added. Mr Zar's assessment may be right, if the analyst firm IDC is correct in its view. Except for Japan, Asia Pacific, according to IDC, will see a 16.4 per cent growth in the use of VoIP this year. This is because of increased adoption in China and India. In China alone, the service will grow to US$5.6 billion in 2008, up from US$3.36 in 2003. Security measures therefore need to be improved, Mr Zar said. 'There is no doubt that VoIP will be the communications trend in the future. In Asia Pacific, growth rates for adoption are surpassing those of the United States and Europe. However, security measures to protect users need to catch up with that growth. This is why we are urging companies to look closely at the issues and take action,' he said. Although there is a lot of spending on VoIP, there is not much on securing these connections. This could be quite dangerous, he said. Some forecasts predict that Asia Pacific service providers will spend less than US$33 million on security products related to VoIP, while the rest of the world will spend US$83.6 million. According to British research group Infonetics, 900 million infection attempts and 120 billion intrusion attempts were found in 2003. This is certain to increase. 'We need to ensure [that] our communications systems and content are free from unauthorised access, interruption, delay or any other network attacks,' Mr Zar said. The increase of broadband adoption and VoIP will make this even more important. 'Solutions for securing VoIP are essential, and we urge companies to adopt solutions to prevent external threats. There are solutions out there that can do this without compromising the security of the network or the quality of multimedia communications,' he said. Mr Zar said that he believed the threat of attack was strong enough for users to consider, seriously, working together to protect themselves. One way to do this would be to join VOIPSA - the VoIP Security Alliance. 'We are urging companies to look at their own security threats within their organisation, but we are also inviting Asian companies to join VOIPSA,' Mr Zar said. 'We want to develop a more universal taxonomy and security requirements for VoIP networks worldwide. And we would like [the] Asia region to contribute to these discussions.' VOIPSA hopes to make the public more aware of the security issues surrounding VoIP. It is an open group working on a number of issues, including documentation. It would be in the interest of small and medium businesses to be more aware of the potential security problems that could compromise their businesses. Large multinationals spend millions of dollars protecting themselves - small and medium-sized businesses must do what they can with limited funding. Joining a group such as VOIPSA may be a step in the right direction.