Yesterday, NowPublic revealed in an exclusive story that a ViaTalk user's private phone records had been given to a stranger.
A continuing investigation has uncovered multiple problems with ViaTalk services. In the wake of SunRocket's failure, ViaTalk, the startup of whiz kid Brendan Bader, is in the hot seat as IP telephony struggles to come of age.
In mid-September, PC Magazine writer Rick Broida gave a definite "thumbs down" to ViaTalk service:
"Because getting a support issue resolved is virtually impossible, I can't in good conscience recommend ViaTalk. (Although the service has improved modestly, I still can't recommend ViaTalk wholeheartedly despite the excellent features.) The service itself offers a killer feature package at a very attractive price, but until the company makes significant improvements in customer service, anyone shopping for a VoIP provider would do well to steer clear of it. I've prepaid for the year, so I'm going to stick it out, but you don't have to make the same mistake. " -- ViaTalk Review
At present, I have not received any response from multiple attempts to contact ViaTalk officials. My continuing investigation led me to the ViaTalk forums. The discussion there revealed numerous problems with ViaTalk, including lack of response, lack of porting numbers from old servers in a timely fashion, and billing problems.
Among literally hundreds of posts, users reported:
".... I tried a couple of times to contact support via phone and had to give up after a 45 min hold to get from caller 36 to 21 and then 1 hour hold to get from fifty something to 28. In addition they gave me an out of area code number that is useless to local inbound callers (unless they feel like paying l/d to call across the street). Glad I only paid 14.95 BYOD for the useless experiment."
"ViaTalk has hosed themselves by treating thier new customers so poorly. I will never have a good thought about Viatalk. When my one year of torture is up I am gone."
"....I called them today (3 hour hold, of course) to ask what day they were on regarding porting docs. He said he didn't know. This seems to be a common answer in CS."
"....I was told that I would have to wait for someone to deal with this of which there was no timeline as to when. I said that this was unacceptable and asked to speak to a Manager. He chirped, “sure” instead of saying no one is available, as they did in the past, and the call is sent to an extension that is obviously unmanned, if not a dead VM box. I have left messages before and never got a return call. That’s some CS there. So I left a message. I am now back in the cue at #22 at 83 minutes, of which I was just told that phone support is unavailable at 11:30 PM MDT (isn't support Wednesday: 12:00am - 3:00am & 8:00am - 11:59pm? 11:30 MT = 1:30 ET I still have another hour and a half!) WHAT?!! after waiting on hold for 83 minutes to make sure that this will be dealt with and that the phone ticket has been created and escalated. Since I asked to speak to a manager, I fear a “hold” on the situation. I will also, which may be cutting my throat, submit a ticket as follow up."
"Evan after 4 weeks of signing up with them, they could not send me the adapter or activate my account. None of my tickets never got answered and you have to wait for hours before you get some customer support, whom doesn't know anything. The funny part is they charged me for the past 4 weeks usage without even activating my account. That was the last straw.Today I waited for 3 hours on phone and cancelled my order and got an email saying that they cancelled my order but cannot refund the shipping and activation charges? What the f...? they are charging me even though they gave me nothing? Very funny, I am calling my credit card company and disputing the charges they charged."
Another user has reported seeing unknown calls. (Note: the numbers have been x'd out by the user.) "
Anyone have any idea what the following entries are for out going call log, it shows a call being placed to t it was busy on two occasions and answered on two occasions.
2007-09-05 15:28:50 EST "PRIVATE"
2007-09-04 13:21:47 EST "PRIVATE"
2007-08-30 21:13:35 EST "PRIVATE"
2007-08-29 18:43:14 EST "PRIVATE"
Despite numerous efforts to reach someone at ViaTalk yesterday for comments, I have not yet received a response.
I'm now in communication with another user involved in breach of privacy issues. In addition, I have posted a question for users on the forums with a link to this article.
Original story follows.
Amid growing concerns about VOIP security, one ViaTalk customer was horrified to discover that his private phone records had been forwarded to a stranger.
In an exclusive interview, Bill Adler, President of Adler & Robin Books, Inc. in Washington, D.C. told NowPublic that approximately a month’s worth of phone records had wound up in the hands of another user. The security and privacy breach came, Adler said, when his temporary ViaTalk number was transferred to a new customer.
“This is outrageous. There’s nothing more sensitive for a business or person than their phone records,” Adler said. “Fortunately, the new user is an honorable person who called us.”
Adler’s office manager, Jeanne Welch, contacted ViaTalk customer service after the new user called them with the news he had their phone records. Welch was told that phone records transfer with temporary phone numbers when they are reassigned, Adler said.
This leads to another major question: can this security breach become a daisy chain, with successive users receiving others’ records? Adler said that possibility wasn’t addressed during conversations with Customer Service.
“I can’t believe their system allows this to happen. This is very sensitive information. This was so bizarre that at first we didn’t want to believe it,” Adler said.
VOIP transmissions have been the center of numerous security privacy concerns. In March,
TJX admitted that hackers had stolen more than 45 million credit and debit card numbers.
>Other security issues revolve around DoS attacks, spit (spam over internet telephony) & fraud, according to writer Anthony Plewes. The security group Voice Over IP Security Alliance (VOIPSA) has published numerous papers and articles about the challenges of VOIP security and privacy.
ViaTalk’s website says that the company offers a password protection system for phone logs. However, Adler pointed out, any passwords would no longer apply to the account once the number was assigned to a new user.
“Regardless of anything else, what’s done is done. My business and personal phone records were released to a stranger. This does not meet minimum standards,” Adler declared.
ViaTalk’s parent company, HostRocket, was co-founded in 1999 by whiz kid Brendan Brader right after graduating from high school. Recently named to New York’s “Tech Valley Top 10” list, Brader has not yet replied to NowPublic inquiries about the incident.