Coronavirus exposes weak link in video conferencing

With more of us working from home as a result of the coronavirus lockdown, so more of us are having to hold meetings via conference call or video conference.

But while apps like Zoom have been growing in popularity, there are concerns that they might not be fully secure and could lead to some pretty serious data breaches. But is there anything that can be done to make them safer?

What’s the problem with Zoom?

The COVID-19 outbreak has force millions to work from home, which has led to business tool suppliers such as Zoom see a 2000% increase in users recently. But apparent problems with privacy and security have sparked concern about using video conferencing tools among governments and businesses worldwide.

The app’s unprecedented surge in popularity inevitably attracted the attention of malicious actors, and exposed unforeseen weaknesses. “Zoom bombings” in which hackers enter chat rooms persist, and cybercriminals are targeting user passwords.

The company has also faced a string of privacy concerns after user data was being sent to third parties and used for targeted advertising.

These issues have led to organisations as large and diverse as Google and the NHS to ban the use of the app.

Online conferencing tools’ compliance with global privacy regulations, such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) – which mandates disclosure on data collection, third party access and breaches – has now come under intense scrutiny.

James Stickland, CEO of authentication platform Veridium, highlights that companies using video conferencing tools now face the real risk of breaking data privacy laws, and warns that enforcing passwords greatly increases the risk of cyber-attacks.

“The COVID-19 crisis has forced a number of firms into taking dangerous shortcuts on security, as well as falling foul of regulations such as GDPR – placing them at greater risk of fines and data breaches.

“This is an inevitable consequence of companies who have been pressured into adopting technology in order to stay afloat, without conducting the usual rigorous assessments. Businesses must be transparent about who has access to sensitive, personal employee and client data on video conferences, especially when using screen sharing or recording tools.

“This is imperative considering the escalation of cybercrime, in which funded attacks on passwords worldwide have risen 667% This situation demonstrates that businesses cannot rest on their laurels, waiting for the next data breach – but always plan for the worst case scenario.”

“Video conferencing tools must take accountability and change how they handle data, which is the perfect opportunity to enhance outdated, password-based security systems. Easily compromised passwords, which are susceptible to phishing and malware attacks, are responsible for over 80 per cent of all data breaches.

“Transitioning to a passwordless approach through biometric authentication will not only enhance security and streamline the user experience, but also alleviate the challenges posed by data privacy regulations – such as providing proof of identity for legal non-repudiation and a record of every access attempt.

“Mobile based biometric authentication, which leverages widespread smartphone adoption, can help facilitate safe home working at this critical time without sacrificing the platform’s much loved seamless user experience.”

“It is critical users know how and where their data is being stored, which can be increasingly unclear. The right mobile multi factor authentication solution will minimise the risk of exposing personal data to the wrong parties, improve the traceability of data processing, and keep costs to a minimum.

“Any concerns the public has over the storage of sensitive biometric data can be alleviated by techniques such as the distributed data model, which encrypts biometric data in multiple places, rendering it useless to a hacker.”

“Some video conferencing tool companies are proving to be a victim of their own success. Indeed, as with all businesses, unless they adopt a more stringent approach to security, increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks will continue to prevail.”

How to create a secure password

There are a number of things you need to consider when creating strong password, including:

  • Length – Longer passwords are harder to crack, so aim to create one that has between eight and 32 characters.
  • Too personal– Although you’ll need a password you can remember, making it something that personally relates to you, such as a child’s name, a pet’s name, or even your middle name, will be relatively simple for a hacker to see through.
  • Originality – Although it can get confusing, it’s worth having different passwords for different websites to make sure not all can be hacked if one password is compromised.
  • Complexity – Whenever possible, make your password a mixture of numbers, letters and special characters as this will make it harder to hack.

For more info, check out our blog How to choose a secure password and stay safe online.

Why a conference call is the answer

When you hold a meeting using, the whole call is held on a landline or mobile device, which means there are none of the data breach issues associated with video calling apps. The only information we need from you is your email address so we can send you your unique PIN to get the call started – and you can talk to up to 100 participants on any one call.

A conference call is the smart and secure way to hold remote meetings.

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