3 Common-Sense Security Considerations when using Videoconferencing

You might have read several stories in the news recently about the growth of a new form of security hack called ‘zoom-bombing’, where unknown miscreants hijack a videoconference and show distasteful or graphic content. As the growth of video conferencing has exploded, so do the ways other people are exploiting it for financial gain, or plain old pranks. Either way, you don’t really want it to be YOU that suffers from it.

Another issue you might not have thought about is when in a video call, who or what is in the background? Are there posters or data boards in the background that are revealing private information? Inadvertent disclosure of sensitive information is easily done. And can you be sure that the people who are in the background are behaving appropriately? Your reputation could be destroyed if the office joker decides to play a trick whilst you’re on the call.

There are a few things you can do to help avoid being taken advantage of which are what might be considered as just common sense, and can be implemented without a degree in information security! So you might want to take a look and apply them yourself.

  1. Limit the exposure of the meeting

Video conference calls are normally started by clicking on a link, distributed by email. Therefore tip #1 is to only send the link to the people who you intend to be in the meeting! If the meeting link is accessible by people outside the group of attendees, the risk is obviously higher. Next, you’ll want to use some form of lobby facility (in Zoom it’s called the Waiting Room) so that you let only the people who have been invited into the meeting. Remind your attendees, when you’re sending out the meeting agenda, to use their real name if they’re asked to enter a name before entering the call. Also, once everyone you expect to be in the meeting IS in the meeting, don’t allow anybody else in! You can automatically apply this in Zoom by locking the meeting.

  1. Use a virtual background

You can now avoid exposing what is going on behind you because a fairly new thing that has been added to most of the videoconferencing tools is the addition of something called a virtual background, which replaces what’s behind you with something you can control, such as a blank screen, a photograph or some other form of picture. You once needed a green screen to achieve something like this, but with modern technology, you don’t need it. The tools work out what is background from the person(s) on the call. Virtual backgrounds for Zoom are applied by a few simple mouse clicks from the video options in the call. Backgrounds for Microsoft Teams are also available, and just as easily applied on the call itself.

  1. Check the default settings

Many of the vulnerabilities are exploited because most people don’t bother to check (or are even aware of) the default settings on the video conference tool. Toni Marino regularly uses Zoom and advises that, before you join any video conference, you go to the settings and apply the most secure options, such as the Waiting Room (see above) and to untick ‘Join Before Host’ to prevent people starting the meeting without you. Toni also advises setting up the meetings so that the host can mute all participants.

With these few simple preventative measures, you can enjoy worry-free video conferences!


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