How to Stay Safe Whilst Video Conferencing
Staying healthy, both offline and online remains a challenge these days. The global pandemic has radically changed the way we communicate and altered our perception and experience of digital collaboration. Or at least it should have!
We have a whole new dependency on apps. Video conferencing has become a viable way for businesses to function and apps have a different meaning in both our professional and personal lives.
Reports have stated that video conferencing apps аrе up 90%, compared to the pre-COVID-19 weekly download average. This has prompted us to ask questions about our digital health, well-being and take a closer look at responsibility and accountability.
What are the key factors impacting security whilst on a video call application? Firstly, it’s all about people. Users will have different levels of awareness and knowledge on how to safely use the application’s tools. Secondly, the vulnerability of your computer’s software systems and the company’s policies and security culture will also have an influence on security.
Being Aware: Potential Security and Privacy Risks
When the pandemic struck, organisations had to shift their processes online overnight. Driving companies to operate in an environment without suitable protection and using systems not designed for at-home use. Zoom has had a lot of attention in the media but have we been using it incorrectly? The app was originally designed for businesses with IT specialists who could guarantee seamless setup and security.
App designers are becoming more conscious of potential security risks but users also need to be conscious and careful. Very often, the default settings were not designed to provide maximum protection, but users themselves have to enhance security. It’s worrying to see the number of apps that do not support end-to-end encryption. This increases the risk of “interception of communication” by unwanted and malicious hackers.
A few other risks to keep in mind. Be aware, an uninvited user can turn on a device's camera, microphone, and gain full access to files. Applications that allow sign up from social accounts are also vulnerable. Yes, the login is easier but it increases the security risk for you and your contacts. Hackers have the ability to collect details of the operating system, IP address, location data and password, if not authenticated.
Evaluate Apps Before Jumping in
You wouldn’t buy shoes without trying them on, so why start using an app before evaluating its performance? Those very shoes wouldn’t be fit for purpose for every occasion and the same thought process needs to be applied for applications. We need to pick the programmes we use wisely, on a case by case basis, reviewing the requirements we need.
We are not starved for choice when selecting video conferencing apps. Some are free or at a low cost, but if you want industry-standard, you’ll need to pay for it. Review and compare, then review again before selecting. I’ve suggested a few here. Cisco WebEx, Google Hangouts, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, ClickMeeting, Zoom, Google Meet, GoToMeeting, BlueJeans, Appear.in etc.
How to select the right app?
- Ask yourself whether you will be using the app for limited small groups, or larger groups and meetings.
- Define the audience, who will be on the call? For example, if you are using the app for a virtual classroom with children, you will need higher security with end-to-end encryption.
- Think about the content you will be sharing. For example, strategy and financial documents will require business confidentiality and enhanced security.
A spectrum of personal and corporate data is usually being revealed during a video conference meeting. That is why it is essential to understand if the app collects or stores personal data and if it does, what does it do with it? Cases of data brokerage and selling data to third parties are not uncommon.
It’s also wise to re-read the data protection policies of the video conference app in order to fully understand it. The policies are usually written by lawyers, so not the easiest to decipher but you can also follow the media for concerns over privacy and in-app surveillance measures
End-to-end encryption is a must. Encrypted communication is the core value of any trusted exchange. In a time where data is a precious commodity, encryption must be the key feature to enable a thriving ecosystem of corporate communication.
Steps to Stay Safe Online
Demand for video conferencing apps is booming, so follow the steps below and stay safe online.
- Always update to the latest versions. Software updates provide new features, fix vulnerabilities and address malfunctions.
- Avoid sharing the meeting ID in public forums like social media or online platforms.
- Using passwords as a gate to video-conference meeting is always a great idea. To avoid meeting crashers, ensure the password is only available to meeting participants.
- Ensure you have hosting features. This feature will allow you to regulate participants, disable in-app features and have full control comments and interactions.
- Take advantage of the waiting room features. They help to regulate the number of participants at particular moments of the meeting.
- Disable file and material transfer features. In many cases, intruders enter to upload files or materials directly downloaded by meeting participants.
- Recording a video conference meeting is not recommended for security reasons. However, if content is scheduled, participants must be notified before the recording begins. This will enable them to decide whether to participate and if it’s in line with privacy and data protection requirements.
It’s important to keep these healthy habits up, even after the pandemic passes.
About the Author
Ljubica Pendaroska, Privacy and Data Protection Expert
Cybersecurity Europe Top50 Women Influencer 2019