Video Conferencing Security in the time of COVID-19

In a time of physical distancing, many of us are turning to digital tools to keep us socially connected. From the burrows of our homes we have been able to virtually gather for games, birthdays, classes, movies, and so much more. Much of our current connection relies upon video conferencing tools that allow us to be face-to-face with others, without actually being face-to-face. As we further isolate into our couches, we’ve found ourselves experiencing normal life on video calls at unprecedented rates. Even those of us who are used to a similar practice — longtime remote worker over here — have noticed the substantial increase in the number of digital tools used and video calls occurring.

While some of us are experiencing our first zoom call or learning how to change a virtual background, others are wondering the implications of all of our life moments taking place virtually. We’re grappling with existing problems such as wondering how a company is using our data or pondering the accuracy of information we hear on webinars. We’re also facing new challenges found in zoombombers and non consensual recording or sharing of our brady bunch screen photos.

Much to our dismay, the lack of equity and security has been amplified on video conferencing tools. Whether you’re using Zoom, Google Hangouts/Meet, Skype, or others, maintaining our privacy and security is fundamental to how we use these tools. Each of these tools has different features and settings that requires us to take various steps to protect ourselves online. But the basics still apply.

Here’s a high-level list of what you should always be aware of when using video conferencing tools:

  • Use secure wifi when connecting to video calls. Change your default passwords for your home wifi and router, and limit the use of public wifi where possible.
  • Have strong passwords. Using strong passwords will keep your accounts secure. Try using a password manager to organize and select passwords.
  • Cover your camera when not in use. Previous security risks have made it possible for third-parties to hijack our camera or audio after a call has been completed.
  • Use appropriate backgrounds. Make sure the camera can’t capture personal or sensitive information. Use virtual background where necessary.
  • Protect sensitive information that can be heard/seen. Protect the privacy in your homes by wearing headphones to minimize the noise and blurring your background to minimize what can be seen.
  • Password protect calls or enable permissions. Keep intruders out of your calls by setting passwords and enabling participant restrictions.
  • Update your tools to the latest versions. Tools are constantly being updated for your protection so keeping them up to date will give you the best security.
  • Review your settings frequently. Review the settings and preferences of your tools to make sure you are aware of what you can and cannot change.

Whether you’re using one video conferencing tool or many, these steps can protect you wherever you are and promote better digital hygiene across the platforms you use. Remember, the point isn’t to stop using video conferencing tools but to keep you safe while you are on them.

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