Yealink Endpoints now Certified for FreePBX

As part of our ongoing efforts to expand the FreePBX EcoSystem we are happy to announce that Yealink has completed the Certification process to become a Certified Hardware Partner and included in the FreePBX EcoSystem Program.

Certification means that Yealink and The FreePBX Project engineering and development team now have a direct relationship and are work together to ensure that our shared end users and partners that wish to utilize Yealink devices when building their communications platforms have assurances that Yealink endpoints have been tested and provide great functionality and usability within the FreePBX Platform.

Certification also means that Yealink phones that have been submitted for Interoperability Testing are now officially supported within the FreePBX EndPoint Manager.  EndPoint Manager support allows easy provisioning and management of supported endpoints directly from within the FreePBX Administrative GUI.  In addition many Yealink phones also are now listed as a supported devices for running the popular FreePBX Phone Apps.  Phone Apps integrate FreePBX features and calling functions directly within the supported phones interface.  This integration allows enhanced usability and functionality for end users deploying FreePBX Communications Systems.

“With FreePBX, the world’s most popular open source PBX, Sangoma delivers a platform that allows organizations to build communications solutions to fit their needs,” said Preston McNair, Vice President of Sales at Sangoma. “By extending our relationship with Yealink, we are building on a collaborative alliance of Certified Hardware and Software Partners, that have been instrumental in the adoption of FreePBX worldwide and have delivered on the promise of an open standards-based UC solution for businesses of all sizes.”

“We at Yealink are pleased to see deepened cooperation with FreePBX through our expanded FreePBX-supported phone array,” said Stone Lu, Vice President of Yealink. “Our relationship with FreePBX reflects our consistent pursuit of the broadest possible compatibility and reliable yet flexible VoIP solutions,” he added. “We look forward to future cooperation with FreePBX as we jointly promote our solutions worldwide.”

FreePBX holiday cyber weekend is officially here!

‘Tis the season for holiday shopping and great deals on FreePBX! Thanksgiving kicks off four big days of big deals just for you! Starting today through midnight Monday November 30 you’ll get:

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  • Free System Builder Plus with purchase of a FreePBX System 50
  • Free System Builder Plus with purchase of a FreePBX System 500
  • 50% off Commercial Modules and Bundles
  • 50% Off Sangoma’s NEW FaxStation
  • Save up to 25% off Sangoma FreePBX Asterisk Cards

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Commercial Modules, Support Provided, Upcoming Changes

Commercial Modules, Support Provided, Upcoming Changes

FreePBX has grown from dozens of modules a few years ago to hundreds of modules today (it’s over 100) the bulk of them part of the open source foundation that makes up this great project. We’re constantly adding new functionality, whether new features to existing modules, brand new open source modules, or the occasional introduction of a new commercial module within the mix.

What determines Commercial vs. Open Source for New Module Development?

Although most of our development resource are spent maintaining and building upon the core open source project, we always evaluate and think hard if a new module should be part of the open source foundation or introduced as commercial. The open source usually wins :). However, there are a number of specific or vertical market needs that usually come with much higher maintenance costs or the need for a higher then normal commercially acceptable response time in addressing issues. Examples of these are the High Availability Module and End Point Manager. In order to keep the bulk of our development efforts focused on the open source foundation, we evaluate these ‘special needs’ areas when deciding if a module should be commercial to ensure there is a proper revenue stream to create, maintain, and support these specialty components. The alternative would otherwise result in all of our time servicing these, used by a much smaller population of users, at the expense of the mainstream code base used by everyone.

Commercial Module Licensing and Continued Support

Most commercial modules are sold with a 25-year license and one year of updates for bug fixes and new features. This model is very standard in the software industry. It means your module will continue to run beyond the first year, but if you want to reap the benefits of the ongoing development and resulting enhancements you will have to pay a small fee after that to keep getting those updates. Otherwise, you can continue using what you have, it WILL continue to function fine.

Up until now, we have never provided a mechanism to buy that continued support after the first year, despite many customers asking us how they can purchase it. Instead, we’ve simply continued to give you those updates for free. With commercial modules entering into their fifth year, the population has exploded with well over 100,000 such modules out there. The support requests related to this growth has increased to the point where we must start providing you the ability to purchase a renewal contract if you want to continue receiving updates and support for them. The alternative of continuing to give this away free would result in our resources being taken away from the core project, which simply hurts everyone and the project as a whole!

What does this change mean and how will it impact you?

For those of you with modules that are more then one year old meaning the year of updates has already expired, we will give you another two weeks free, through November 16th, where you can update any of those modules as has been the case since you purchased them. We’ll attempt to email you with this information proactively based on your portal contact information. (What … doesn’t everyone just follow our blog that we have to email? :)) Furthermore, we’ll provide you with a 15% discount incentive to purchase renewals in the next two week if you renew from this portal link and use discount code RENEWALS through November 15th. For any such renewals, your new anniversary date will be based on a November 16th expiration. This means, if you purchase a one-year renewal whether before or after November 16th, that renewal will be good through November 16th, 2016.

If you’ve purchased a module in the last 12 months you’ll continue to get updates until the anniversary date of your purchase. You’ll be notified in advance inside of Module Admin when you have modules that soon need renewals where you can make the purchases directly. You can also navigate to the portal to see a comprehensive view of all your module licenses on all your deployments, when they will need renewals, and have the ability to renew any of them there whether they have already expired or you just recent purchased them. Furthermore, the RENEWALS incentive is not only good for already expired renewals, you can be proactive and take advantage of it now even if you just bought a module yesterday! (You must use the portal to take advantage of the 15% promotion, from within FreePBX it will not be available.)

After November 16th, if you choose not to renew and there are updates available for those modules installed on your system, you will still be notified of the updates. You will have the option of purchasing a renewal in order to obtain them, which you can do right from the GUI.

Keeping FreePBX thriving for everyone

The FreePBX team is intensely dedicated to the ongoing success of this project and works tirelessly to make sure you continue to have a world class, feature rich and future proof system to bank your business and your customers’ businesses on. We are grateful to the community members who participate in the project – feeding ideas, code and project help to keep us moving forward. This change being announced will go a long way in assuring we can continue to do that. Whether you’re a consumer of these specialized modules or not, all of you depend on the continued investment in the core project’s long term viability. Enabling our ability to fund the ongoing support of these modules through renewals that have always been part of the licensing terms in our EULA will assure that we can continue providing the resources needed for all sides of the project and benefit everyone!

Renewing from FreePBX

When in FreePBX, if Renewals are coming up within 3 months, you can purchase them directly from the GUI. You will see Renewals that are available as seen in the following image.



Upon clicking the Renewal button it will be added to your cart which you can view and go through the checkout process as shown:



When purchasing from portal, you have the option of renewing modules from multiple deployments in once checkout process if needed, AND you can take advantage of the RENEWALS discount code:


You are now set to continue receiving all the new enhancements (and bug fixes) that we continue to provide to you in these important modules that you depend on!

Rob’s Twist on: Why You Need a Firewall, really?

(Or, “Oh no, The Aussie is Blogging Again!”)

It’s a rare day that someone doesn’t come into our IRC channel or forums asking for help with their firewall settings. Usually it’s because they twiddled a knob, or pushed a button on their firewall that they shouldn’t, or even worse, they didn’t twiddle a knob that they should have! After a day of me continuously moaning on IRC about how people just don’t understand firewalls, how there isn’t a good one, and how people just throw things together and go “that’ll do”, my complaints were picked up and echoed around other various forums, by Bloggers who watch our IRC. This made me realize that it wasn’t just me who was irritated by this, and that’s when the idea of a proper FreePBX Firewall was born.

XKDC Comic 1583

Credit to XKCD,

Firewall was, at first, a quiet “Skunkworks” project, but after we sat down and figured out how much this would help the whole community, it was blessed as an official FreePBX project, and has since been released as a module for FreePBX 13!

Historically, we’ve seen a huge number of people who have either had some half broken default firewall installed by their distro, or, have installed one themselves after a random google search returns (often terrible) advice. This almost always causes many more problems than it solves. These firewalls usually default to being massively over enthusiastic and block large chunks of needed traffic, or, they require constant hand-holding and fiddling to keep them working. This tends to cause people to give up and turn them off, or open them far too wide — either because it was TOO configurable, or, not configurable at all without understanding raw iptables rules and memorizing the periodic table backwards!

XKCD Comic 1014

Credit to XKCD,

I saw this as a pretty fundamental problem with third party firewalls and resolved to fix it. Additionally, since FreePBX is an Open Source project, I wanted to make sure everyone else had the opportunity to make suggestions and recommendations, too. I realise that not everyone is as deeply involved in security as I am (and where my background has been for years) but you’ll be happy to know that I also realise that I am quite often not the best person to write user interfaces. I tend to make them nerd friendly, with lots of knobs and buttons to twiddle and push, not human friendly with a simple On and Off setting. So I started a couple of threads in our forums, which sparked a lot of great discussions and ideas.

As a starting point of the design, when thinking about this, I took a step back and pondered the basic, and important question “What is a firewall meant to do?” The answer is, of course, “Keep bad guys out, and let good guys in.” Unfortunately, a lot of the current crop of firewalls have changed the answer to be more along the lines of “Keep everyone out until they cast some magic incantation.” That magic incantation could be something like “Enter your current IP address after dialing some phone number” (How are you meant to dial a number, if you don’t have a working phone?) or “Connect to some random ports on a remote machine in a specific order”, or other overly complex and unneeded things (that, sadly, usually result in the firewall being abandoned). This is something we see in our paid support department on a weekly basis, as the users often turn these default firewalls off because they can’t get their SIP trunk provider or remote phones working.

That is unacceptable! A firewall should not make your life harder. A firewall should make your life easier! (Much easier, in fact, by ensuring you don’t have bad guys attacking your server!). You, as a user, should also never need to do a pile of configuration just to get it to a sensible starting point.

Firewalls can (and often do!) have a large number of nerd-friendly knobs and buttons to twiddle. But I wanted to make this as simple and easy for our users as possible, so I worked hard to constrain my ‘Add a button!’ desires. This means that there’s probably not as much configuration as you expect to see in a firewall — EXACTLY what I wanted to achieve!

I’m also lucky in that I was able to build the firewall around the concept of “This firewall is going to secure a FreePBX Server and that’s it”. I know exactly what FreePBX wants, and FreePBX can tell the Firewall module which firewall rules to care about. This removes most of the complexity that people have to deal with in standard firewalls, and lets me get it to the “Zen-like” On and Off settings that I wanted.

Screenshot 1

Screenshot of the main screen of the Firewall module, when it’s enabled.

With this goal in mind — of it being secure, extremely intuitive, and easy to use so that people actually use it instead of turning it off — I then asked myself “What do FreePBX installations need?” and came up with this short list:

  • By default block everything that shouldn’t be coming in.
  • Examine the PBX configuration and open up specific IPs and Services for everything the user has indirectly configured in their PBX.
  • Find a secure but usable way to automatically detect legitimate remote users who don’t have static IP addresses but need access, and make it easy for them to get to the services and phone access they need while safely blocking everything else out there (I’ve coined this the Responsive Firewall, more on this below!).
  • Provide GUI access for common advanced firewall settings so knowledgeable users who need to do more can do so within the Firewall, and aren’t forced to turn it off so they can do their own thing.

Since I was able to tightly define what the firewall needs to secure, I was then able to put in a lot of VoIP specific intelligence that normal firewalls can’t do. For example, you can expose your SIP ports to the global internet, if you have the need. Normally that’s a terrible idea (and I can hear people lining up to tell me how wrong that is, and how they’re going to punch me in the nose for even suggesting that), and normally I would agree.

However, because this firewall is deeply integrated at a very low level of your system, it can be far more intelligent than a normal firewall. If you’re familiar with firewall concepts, you’ll, of course, see the standard things you expect from a modern firewall, such as zones, network interface configurations, and lists of services (such as SIP, SSH, HTTPS and so on….) Those are all important capabilities in a firewall and are there to allow more advanced configuration by advanced users.

But, where it really shines is the tight integration with FreePBX. The first and most useful integration is to constantly scan your FreePBX configuration and automatically configure the firewall to match it! For example, we’ll detect trunks you’ve configured with your VoIP providers, or other branch offices, and automatically allow those in. We’ll even update the IP addresses on a regular basis, if you’re using dynamically changing hostnames (DDNS) or domains.

At this point you’d think I would have stopped, but where things get REALLY handy is the second integration, the Responsive Firewall.

Screenshot 2

Screenshot of the Responsive Firewall, when it’s enabled.

Of course, it would be wonderful if everyone always used a VPN when away from the office — and, in fact, we’ve put a lot of work into enabling that capability with the new VPN module (more on that to come, but that topic will be left for a future blog). For the rest of us, there’s the Responsive Firewall. If you enable Responsive Firewall and expose the selected protocols (SIP or IAX), the firewall will actively validate clients that are trying to connect to the machine on the selected port(s). This is somewhat similar to what fail2ban does, but fail2ban is passive, banning an ip by looking at logs only after too many failed attempts.

FreePBX Responsive Firewall, on the other hand, detects the fingerprints and patterns of known attack tools at the Operating System level, and blocks them quickly, BEFORE they have a chance to try more than a few attempts! However, to make sure a legitimate error doesn’t lock you out, Responsive Firewall is designed to tolerate common errors (such as the misconfiguration of a phone with the wrong password) by detecting the pattern of such issues and not immediately locking that out, while still being able to block illegitimate break in attempts. (Too much fumbling can still result in getting locked out, but a lot of thought has been put into minimizing this while maintaining high security levels.)

This is, to put it simply, an incredible leap forward in VoIP security. There’s a new Sheriff in town ready to stand up to those brute force attacks of known extensions! Where needed, you can simply put your FreePBX server on the internet, or in the DMZ of your office network, and allow the System Firewall to correctly and securely manage your machine, blocking attacks as they’re detected, but still permitting approved clients through, all without you needing to raise a finger.

But, after all of this, Firewall is still not finished. This is an Open Source project. Everyone has access to it, everyone can read it, everyone can change it! If you think it’s missing something, tell us! If you think it’s doing something wrong, YELL at us (nicely)! If you think you can do it better, do it! Then make sure you click the ‘Pull Request’ button in Github so we can make it better for everyone!

I still have a couple of pending things on my todo list. The highest priority is to allow you, via User Manager, to assign firewall rules per user.

For example, you should be able to specify that Extension 300 only has access to UCP, but Extension 301 has access to the UCP, as well as WebRTC access to make calls from their browser. However, Extension 333 is the admin, so they have access to the main FreePBX Admin interface, as well as SSH access. All of these rules will be automatically applied and removed as their phone connects and disconnects.

Today there are some simple defaults (it opens up access to UCP when a phone has successfully navigated the Responsive Firewall and registered). We’ll also add additional integration to the VPN module, so once you’ve made a secure VPN connection from your computer, we’ll open up the external IP address and proper port that you’re coming from so that the phone itself can register, if the phone is not capable of making it’s own VPN connection.

To ensure the utmost security, the FreePBX Firewall module depends on an RPM package provided by the FreePBX Distro. This means you need to be running the FreePBX Distro (or another distro that is derived from FreePBX Distro) in order to run the module.

I’ll be reviewing what’s involved in making these bits of supporting technology available for other Linux distributions once I get back from Astricon and my other jet setting plans around the US over the next few weeks. In the meantime I’d love to see you try the new Firewall, and keep that feedback and those ideas coming, in the Forum thread!

Thanks for reading and I hope you like what I did!

FreePBX Zulu UC

Introducing Zulu UC…it’s Outlook and Browser integration for FreePBX and it’s coming soon!

Zulu UC is being built by the same team behind the world’s most popular open source PBX, FreePBX. It allows easy communication and collaboration integration with applications that people like you use everyday.

Get in on our pre-release promotion and license unlimited Zulu user connections for only $199 before October 31, 2015.

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