Video calls and conferences: how can we protect ourselves from hackers

Delfim Ferreira

IT Security Manager

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From distance learning to remote work and keeping in touch with friends and family – we are all increasingly relying on the Internet to communicate. That’s why video calls have become so essential to communication.

In April 2020, Zoom announced the registration of 300 million daily conference participants on its platform, 30 times more than the 10 million registered in December 2019, a big increase in just four months. The pandemic crowned Zoom as the most downloaded app in recent months, however, how safe are these services and how can we protect ourselves?

Let’s take a look at the top security risks associated with video conferencing and what you can do to stay safe.

How Secure Are Online Calls and Conferences?

While technology must be designed securely by default, employees always have the ability to circumvent such security measures, often innocently.  In an attack, passwords and account access are in the foreground: if a hacker gets access credentials to an employee’s account on your video calling platform, they will have access to an incalculable amount of data and communications.

For this reason, the most important guideline for videoconferencing security is to always keep passwords confidential. Employees should never share passwords via chat, email or even phone calls, as hackers often try to trick users into providing this information by impersonating someone legitimate within the company (a practice known as “phishing”).  

Raising Concerns about the Security of Video Conferencing Tools

The first thing you need to ask yourself about a videoconferencing tool is:

Does it have end-to-end encryption?

This type of encryption protects communications so that they are only seen by the users involved and that no one can intercept them, not even the application itself. 

Can video calls be intercepted and recorded by third parties?

Can anyone hear the call and potentially record it? Who can join the call and how? As schools turn to Zoom to offer online classes, the issue of privacy breach raises questions about the protection of children. To access Zoom meetings, you need a short URL consisting of numbers, which hackers easily generate and guess.

How is the account information data used?

To what extent are regulatory frameworks such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) respected? How transparent are applications about the data they collect from users and which third parties have access to it?

Where is the data associated with the application stored on your computer or phone?

This is especially important when it comes to information and private documents.

Tips to Prevent Cybercrime Attacks

In the context of video calls, there are several guidelines to follow. The most important would be:

  1. Expel any suspicious user immediately – unless it is an open meeting, unrecognized users should not participate in the video call. To prevent hackers from interrupting the call or hearing confidential information, remove them immediately.
  2. Don’t be afraid to “silence everyone”: if a group of trolls joins your call, it’s crucial to keep them quiet as you figure out how to get rid of them. 
  3. Remove suspicious links from the chat: Many hackers insert URLs into the chat to wreak havoc even after you’ve kicked them out. Since these links always direct users to unwanted or malicious sites, users must be advised not to click on them or, better yet, to delete them.
  4. Remember to disable video and screen sharing – many trolls interrupt calls with obscene images and excessive noise. For this reason, moderators and hosts should always keep in mind that they can disable videos or block the unwanted guest screen sharing feature.
  5. Set conference limits if necessary: User passwords can be an effective way to prevent trolls from joining video calls. If you have extensive access to call features, consider using these limits as an additional security measure.
  6. Activate the “turn off microphone and video” settings: For conferences open to larger audiences, turn off all users’ microphone and video, this can be used as a preventive measure against interruptions.
  7. It is important to know when to use the webinar feature: Events with a large number of participants but few panelists usually work better as a webinar rather than a video conference, as audience participation is limited through this option. In this way, interruptions can be minimized, even without too many restrictions.

How to Effectively Protect our Security

Since remote work remains the norm, it is now more important than ever to keep calls and video calls safe. Security is not only limited to calls; it is equally important to keep the system and associated data -including exchanged files and call recordings- safe from unauthorized access.

Some guidelines may be of great help in this regard, but they alone are not enough. Built-in protocols, such as login security, encryption, and browser-to-browser direct connections, can work together to maintain the privacy of all business meetings, even when held online.

However, it is crucial that these measures be an integrated and always active component of the platform. Our Security & Compliance solutions are the answer to protect your entire online and digital structure.

Contact us and learn more. 

Delfim Ferreira

IT Security Manager

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