Ten steps for secure video conferencing

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*This is a guest post, the thoughts and opinions expressed within are those of its authors and do not reflect on Techaeris or its staff.

In 2020, the use of video conferencing has skyrocketed. This happened because of stay-at-home measures enforced around the world as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Daily downloads of the Zoom app have even increased 30 times year-on-year. Daily users of the app reached 200 million in March, as compared with 10 million in the previous December. 

But the rise in shared video calls has been accompanied by a new trend of hackers attempting to hijack and disrupt meetings. This has even prompted an FBI warning, and it has caused organizations to ban certain video conferencing platforms. However, the security dangers can be avoided by following the right protective measures.

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Perform regular updates

For software to be secure, it needs to be kept completely up-to-date with the most recent version. When a software application releases a new version with a patch that addresses certain security issues, existing software that has not been updated is left vulnerable.

Video conferencing apps may also have their own security issues to watch out for. In March, there were some technical challenges with Zoom that could allow hackers to gain access. But these issues had all been resolved by April 1.

Manage your participants

Keeping meetings organized will also help to improve security. If you are in the position of meeting host, then you can control the camera and mute options. Hosts are also able to make sure that screens cannot be shared without their permission.

With most video conferencing apps, hosts have the power to close the meetings once the expected participants have joined. At the highest levels of security, hosts can individually approve every participant before they join. 

Screen your participants

With just about every video conferencing platform, there is the chance to verify participants before granting them access. This is a safe place where only the host will meet the potential participants.

With Zoom, this area is known as the ‘meeting room,’ while with Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, and Cisco, this is the ‘lobby.’ Of course, with very large groups, screening can be challenging to manage, but it is a useful feature to prevent any unwanted disruptions.

Manage your privacy

Applications provide adjustable privacy settings, so users should set them to the maximum if they want to control their privacy. In Zoom, there is the chance to turn auto-saving and auto-tracking off for increased privacy.

However, in some cases, privacy is a privilege that is not available on the free plan. You may need to pay to take control of your privacy. The privacy policy of the software should always be reviewed before using it for corporate purposes.

Password protection

Online meetings on video conferencing software can be protected with a password. The recent occurrences of ‘zoom bombing’ have mainly been where these protections are not used, so the meetings can be joined by trouble makers.

The settings must be adjusted, so passwords are required for scheduling new meetings and instant meetings. When there is an option in the settings to join by phone directly with one click, this should be disabled.

secure video conferencing

Avoid sharing links or other information

Sharing links in public places is another way of inviting any unwanted disturbances to the meeting. Meetings that have been crashed or interrupted in the past have been caused by links that were openly shared.

Links, meeting IDs, passwords, and all meeting details must all be shared securely to ensure that misuse and potential damage can be avoided. Users should also be required to use multi-factor authentication with the software.

Be mindful of phishing

In the last few months, it has been noticed that cybercrime has actually increased since the coronavirus outbreak. Many of these have been attacks that attempt to exploit COVID-19 issues, such as phishing attacks that purport to be from the World Health Organization (WHO).

We must all be especially careful when opening links, and be careful not to confuse invitations to online meetings with other suspicious links. Failure to do this could result in harmful malware being downloaded to our computer networks.

Eject unwanted participants

In the event of an unwanted participant joining a meeting, hosts have the option to mute or remove them from Zoom or Skype for business or expel them from Cisco. After this, the user must be blocked so they cannot return, and perhaps even reported to the platform so they cannot re-offend. Once the undesirables have been removed, the meeting can be locked so it can continue without any disturbances.

Avoid recording meetings

Unless you have a specific reason to record meetings, this should be avoided. It was recently reported that thousands of recorded meetings had been left publicly available on the internet. This may be a potential security risk for business meetings that contain sensitive data.

In the cases that meetings do need to be recorded, all members should be informed of this beforehand. It is also necessary to ensure that the recording is protected and completely confidential. When it is possible, turn off the video and set the meeting to audio-only. This protects against some attacks, and it also saves bandwidth. 

Establish a video conferencing policy

As the demand for video conferencing rapidly increased in a short space of time, many businesses were unable to organize their procedures sufficiently. This leaves a window of opportunity for malicious actors and cyber pests. A policy will enable businesses to set boundaries and expectations for all participants. It can outline the user permissions for in-house and remote video conferencing. A policy can give guidelines as to how the software is used, as well as the use of sensitive data in meetings.

As things currently stand, no one can be sure how long the global restrictions will be in place. But for the foreseeable future, it seems that video conferencing is something we will all have to get used to. Provided we follow the right measures and stay informed on security issues, this can be a way of working and staying safe at the same time.

Last Updated on February 3, 2021.


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