Communicating and collaborating through video has exploded as we all adjust to a new way of life in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, where working from home and social distancing have become the norm.
But with the Coronavirus outbreak, there has been a dramatic there has been a increase of companies and organizations attempting to put platforms in place as quickly as possible. With people racing to download software and apps to stay connected on their smart devices and laptops, the consequences of rushing normal software-vetting processes have become rapidly apparent.
Whether through news coverage, professional networks or browsing social media, by now you are probably aware of recent security findings and reports of video conferencing abuse and personal information leaked in which unassuming people have unfortunately found themselves:
- Hosting a webinar only to have a participant present obscene material for all to see? Check.
- Having uninvited guests deliberately crash video meetings and share their bad intentions with classes, congregations or constituents? Check and check.
- Having data serendipitously shared with a large social media company without user knowledge or consent? Check.
Signing up for a video conferencing service and connecting with personal contacts and professional colleagues over video is relatively quick and easy. However, there is still a learning curve to navigate for the millions of people who are new and unaccustomed to this form of communication, particularly as it relates to safeguarding personal or sensitive information. To help you avoid similar situations, here are ten best practices for maintaining your privacy and security while using video conferencing.
10 Video Conferencing Best Practices for Privacy and Security
1. Configure and confirm meeting settings
When quickly joining a video call, it’s easy to stick with the default settings. Take an extra moment to confirm that each option is configured appropriately for your meeting so that you don’t encounter unexpected surprises when you join. This includes testing your audio and video before the call to ensure both are working properly. Remember, meeting participants will be treated to the view of whatever is behind you, so testing your video before the call gives you the opportunity to check your background and make sure it’s appropriate for the meeting.
2. Take the time to learn the tool you are using
You don’t have to become a power user overnight, but at a minimum, get familiar with the buttons to mute your microphone, turn off your camera and leave the meeting. It’s the easiest way to make sure you are seen and heard only when you want to be.You don’t have to become a power user overnight, but at a minimum, get familiar with the buttons to mute your microphone, turn off your camera and leave the meeting. It’s the easiest way to make sure you are seen and heard only when you want to be. Some video conferencing tools also require you to download the software prior to the meeting. Ensure you do this ahead of time so you aren’t fumbling last minute to get set up3.
3. Mind your screenshots
Want to share a snapshot or video clip showing you and other meeting attendees on-screen? Double-check that no sensitive meeting details or personal contact information are visible in the frame before you upload it to your profile. It's important to avoid any privacy issues or exposing user data which could be an innocent mistake with serious repercussions.
4. Leave meeting invites to the meeting owner
Is there a person missing from the meeting invite? Would someone else benefit from joining? Rather than passing along the meeting details yourself, notify the meeting owner and let them handle it. You can easily trump their oversight by forwarding to the wrong contact or create an awkward situation for the meeting host when another party shows up unannounced.
For meeting owners and moderators
5. Don’t share your video meeting link publicly
Treat your meeting link like the key to your office or, better yet, your home. You wouldn’t share it with just anyone. To ensure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, distribute the link only to people who need to know it — and only through private means, like secure email or direct message. Remember to always treat your meeting IDs with caution.
Need to host a public meeting with hundreds or thousands of participants? Most enterprise-grade video conferencing platforms like Lifesize have built-in controls to help you avoid abuse by restricting access for content sharing, video sharing and chat only to invited presenters.
6. Require a passcode for meeting entry
Consider an additional safeguard for your meeting by setting a passcode, if possible for any privacy concerns you might have. While you can share the passcode with your meeting link, you could also consider sharing it verbally or in a separate email or message for increased security.
7. Don’t just attend, moderate
If you own the meeting but are unable to moderate, designate a moderator to join. If you are only in a meeting to moderate, it can be tempting to multitask. Don’t. If you are called upon to stop a participant’s presentation, remove a person from the meeting or lock the meeting, you need to be ready to act.
For people exploring alternatives to Zoom and other video services
8. Choose a service that meets your needs
Believe it or not, you don’t have to opt for the first video conferencing app that shows up in your online search. Common free services like Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts may be easily accessible, but while they generally provide basic features like screen sharing, they don't always provide the functionality needed for larger video conferences. Given the current circumstances, multiple companies are providing free access to their video conferencing services and tools, so you could actually try them all and see what works best for you without being locked into a plan. Professional tip—if privacy and security are especially of concern, look for a provider that has a history and reputation for securing their customers’ personal data and privacy.Taking the time to understand service providers and the security measures they have in place will only benefit you in the long run
9. Consider live streaming
Video conferencing serves a specific purpose—real-time, two-way communication and exchange of information among hosts and participants. If your need is mainly outbound communication to an audience, you may alternatively consider live streaming as your primary channel. This would limit the opportunity for outside parties to disrupt your message and presentation, especially in large call situations. Fortunately, live streaming is available as an option for select video conferencing providers, so you can broadcast to larger audiences while also preserving your ability to meet and interact with individuals and smaller groups on a more personal level.
10. Prioritize encryption and enterprise privacy policies
- Does the provider explicitly state what data it collects and how it is secured?
- Does the provider specify how long data is retained, and for what purpose?
Remember, it is ultimately your responsibility, as a customer or IT administrator, to dig deeper to determine if an offering stands up to privacy and security scrutiny and if you are willing to accept the caveats and the accompanying risks.
Where some pitfalls of video conferencing can simply be attributed to user error, the remainder are the product of flaws in the service being used and the compromises made by the provider itself. It’s no secret that the way the technology is coded, packaged and deployed has a significant impact on the security of your data and privacy of your conversations with meeting attendees. But you should also be comfortable with the level of transparency a provider maintains regarding their offering and how forthcoming they are in terms of how your communications and intellectual property are handled.
We are all taking measures to keep ourselves, family and friends safe and secure during the Coronavirus lockdowns. Let’s also make sure we are doing the same with our communication tools.
If you are currently in need of a secure, enterprise-grade video conferencing platform, Lifesize is offering free, unlimited video conferencing service to all businesses for six months. To learn more, visit www.lifesize.com/remote-work.