Online Video Calls: Unexpected Security Dangers

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COVID-19 slapped this year with a big health scare. Thus, individuals, companies, and governments confined to working from home resorted to a technological alternative for meetings. Fortunately, video calls turned out to be an excellent alternative for all the parties mentioned above, allowing to avoid the disruption of business and political activities.

The users embraced online video calls to discuss critical business, family, and government matters. However, in 2020, the cyber-security risks associated with this communication medium proved still pertinent.

As early as 2012, eight years before the pandemic, the chief security officer at a Boston-based cybersecurity firm revealed that hackers could penetrate video call systems.

This interception can pose many security challenges, such as compromised user privacy and virus infestation (find more info here on how to scan your system for viruses).

So, what are some of these threats of videoconferencing and how can they be avoided with the help of thoughtful cyber-security measures? Keep reading to discover them and guard your online video calls.

Unprepared End-users

User unpreparedness is the first security danger lurking in online video calls. The reason is that COVID-19 forced millions of ill-prepared users worldwide to embrace online video calls. The challenge here is that most of them approached it as another “tech fad.”

Unfortunately, they ignored the potential dangers of using such a technology en-mass without adequate preparation. Thus, end-users are making dangerous security blunders exposing them to hackers.

Unprepared IT Infrastructure

The surging need for video conferencing met an unprepared global IT infrastructure. Surveys show that 85% of companies believe embracing the public cloud for video call collaboration is innovative. However, a mere 40% of these companies have some functional measures to manage cloud security.

It’s not surprising that the public has seen a tide of security concerns (discussed later) with Zoom sparking ban threats from the US and the EU.

Phishing

Phishing is another risk facing online video calls users. Smart hackers can attack collaborative messaging features in Microsoft Team, Slack, or Zoom, exploiting these messengers to send phishing messages. These attacks can steal people’s identity and bank details, smuggling malware via malicious links and attachments, just like emails.

Exposed Recordings

Video calling recordings pose security issues because they can accidentally expose sensitive information to the public. This threat is real when users lack strong passwords or water-tight recording policies to regulate their video calls.

This threat is so extensive that as early as April 2020, The Washington Post reported that thousands of Zoom video recordings were doing rounds on the Net. The biggest problem here was not just the exposure. It was the exposed video recordings’ nature that raised serious security concerns.

For instance, some materials covered treatment sessions, financial meetings, telemedical calls, and nursery kids’ class sessions, thus violating the privacy and confidentiality laws and even posing a security threat to their participants.

So, we can conclude that as of now, it’s wise to be careful when discussing sensitive matters using video calls. All remote communications requiring high security and confidentiality levels should happen via the phone or rigorously encrypted internal systems.

Leaky Private Text Chats

Text messages are available during video conferencing. For instance, the host might chat with their hosts during a video call session. However, an insensitive host might share the whole meeting files with their friends or colleagues. The challenge here arises because the private chats between individual attendees and the host can leak.

User Privacy Compromise

Privacy and security are still giving many video call users sleepless nights because even the most highly fancied providers face security challenges. This year made Zoom the world’s darling and a household name in video calls. The problem is that most users don’t know about the “Zoom bombs” that have been hitting the app.

For instance, hackers have intercepted it to enter meetings and smear them with violent threats and racist remarks. Thus, its developer responded by fixing a bug that could have aided hackers in taking over Mac users using the video app.

When the bombs started raining, the company said it had encrypted its calls. However, an Intercept report proved otherwise and revealed that hackers could still intercept its video call sessions. The firm conceded the threat, but so far, we still wait to see how fully it seals these loopholes.

Zoom was forced to change some of its privacy policies after a Motherboard report discovered it sends user data from its iOS application to Facebook for adverts. But these problems are not peculiar to Zoom. We highlighted them here to show that any other alternative app could still have the same security loopholes.

The only difference could be that the other alternative apps have not gained enough popularity to attract many hacker attacks. All these concerns were unknown until this year when Zoom became the “in-thing” in video calls.

Measures for Making Your Video Calls Safer

Under the conditions of remote work and absence of other alternatives, businesses and organizations have started looking for ways to minimize the risks associated with video calls and video conferencing.

Here are some expert tips to keep your video streaming securer:

  1. Double-check the work environment that you’re going to stream online for sensitive data. The blackboard next to you or some notes on your desk may contain sensitive, even secret business information that will be compromised in case the video gets publicly exposed.
  2. Ensure that only authorized users have access to the videoconferencing room of your meeting. It’s very risky to establish loose access rules as any employee or their family member can unknowingly expose the sensitive corporate data to public if they access business video materials they shouldn’t.
  3. Don’t share files via unprotected systems. Most videoconferencing apps are meant for video calls only and do not provide sufficient encryption for files. Choose only rigorously encrypted and secure channels for passing sensitive business data.
  4. Mind the risks of screen sharing. In case screens are shared by people who’re not supposed to do that within a specific videocall session, it can cause an unintentional data leakage.

There you have it. The choice is yours to use these insights to improve your video call safety and protect yourself against threats.

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