Privacy & Security Advice For Virtual Meetings

Privacy & Security Advice For Virtual Meetings

Virtual meetings have been steadily growing in popularity in recent years, but in 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the use of platforms like Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts, particularly for businesses. With many companies having to close and teams having to work remotely, recruitment, business meetings and even team discussions relied heavily on video conferencing applications to continue. 

While these tools have been invaluable to businesses, they do also present their own unique challenges. Cybercriminals have begun taking advantage of the increasing number of people using these video conferencing platforms and as such, strong security strategies are needed to protect your employees and secure your data.  That’s why we’ve put together this guide. Below, we’ll offer some simple steps you can take to protect your privacy and security during virtual meetings. 

Research the video conferencing applications beforehand 

The first thing to do is to research the different platforms and decide which offers the best security and privacy features. The cost in these platforms will vary and there are free tools you can use, just keep in mind that these might not offer the strongest security features and it could be worth investing a little more budget in your chosen conferencing tool for better security measures.

Read the website or platforms privacy policies 

Although reading pages and pages of terms and conditions isn’t fun, when it comes to the privacy policies it’s a good idea to take an interest in reading these. This will ensure you know what the platform is doing to try and protect you. What’s more, thanks to GDPR guidelines, businesses are increasingly trying to outline their privacy policies in a simple and understandable way so these won’t be as confusing or time-consuming as they used to be.

Invest in a business license

As with a lot of applications and platforms, there will be different packages available. By investing in a business or enterprise license rather than using the free option, you’ll be given greater control over employees using these collaborative tools. This will allow you to change default settings, privacy features and security measures. It also means you’ll be able to see how members of your team are using the platform and ensure they’re following the guidelines you’ve set out. 

Require passwords for all meetings

To avoid your meeting becoming a free for all, most video conferencing platforms have a feature that allows you to set a meeting ID and password. Unfortunately, meeting IDs can be guessed or hacked but it’s harder to do this with passwords. As such, it always pays to set a meeting password and to share this with attendees in a safe and private way such as email or phone call. It’s also important that you never share your meeting ID on a public forum such as social media unless you want anyone and everyone to be able to join. 

The host should join first 

Whoever is hosting the meeting should be the first to log on and should be the one who is controlling admittance. Platforms like Zoom have something called a ‘waiting room’ where attendees are placed after entering the meeting ID and password. It is then up to the host to accept their entry request. This gives you as the host a chance to recognise and challenge any unknown or unwanted attendees before starting the meeting. 

Lock calls once everyone has joined

Many video conferencing platforms will also offer the functionality to be able to lock the call once everyone has joined. This stops other people being able to gain access or request to join mid-meeting. It’s also a useful way of keeping out unwanted attendees.  

Limit file-sharing during the meeting 

If you’re holding a business meeting you might require file-sharing to be able to do your job effectively. However, file sharing over video conferencing platforms can be risky. This could give unknown attendees access to sensitive data and it could afford hackers the chance to send malware disguised as attachments. 

The best thing to do is to limit the amount of file sharing during the meeting and instead share all relevant files and presentations beforehand via email. This can be a much safer way to conduct the meeting. 

Be mindful of your surroundings

This might not be something you’ve really thought about but in order to protect your privacy, it’s vital that you’re aware of your surroundings. With many people operating these meetings from boardrooms and now increasingly from their homes, there could be sensitive information lurking in the background. This could include anything from a flip chart containing data or statistics left from a previous meeting, to family photos or a confidential letter pinned to your fridge at home.

When joining a virtual meeting, make sure you choose a location with a neutral background. If you can’t do this, many platforms offer the tools that allow you to customise or blur your background instead. 

Make sure no one is recording the meetings

Many video conferencing platforms have the functionality to be able to record meetings. However, they also offer tools that mean the host can block all other attendees, apart from themselves, from recording it. They can also set alerts which identify any attendees that do start recording mid-meeting. This reduces the risk of people storing and sharing sensitive information discussed during the call and also means unwanted attendees (if they manage to get in) can’t make a permanent recording of this information. 

Understand what the host can access 

Last on our list, it’s important to understand what the host can and can’t do. If you’re not the one hosting the meeting, rather you are just an attendee, you need to get a good understanding of the platform you’ll be using beforehand. This is because most video conferencing platforms allow the host the most control and in some cases, they might have privileges you weren’t aware of. 

For example, they might be able to access private chats that took place during the meeting or they might be able to see who actively engaged with the meeting and who didn’t. 

By getting clued up on the platform before you begin, you’ll know what information the host can access before you log in. This means you can be more cautious about how you’re behaving and the information you’re sharing during the meeting.