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Properly setting up your Online Security is Essential

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

by John Chapman

During coronavirus lockdown, online collaboration tools are seeing a global surge in popularity. Ensuring security settings are up to date remains an essential consideration.

There has been an unprecedented uptake in the use of online collaboration tools such as Zoom, Houseparty and Teams as users flock to these services during pandemic lockdowns across the world. With usage increasing so quickly - Zoom has reportedly seen a jump from 10 million to 200 million users a day within months - growing concerns around security have also emerged.

Incidents of uninvited guests joining online calls – dubbed ‘zoombombings’ after the popular platform – have arisen in various forms. Incidents of uninvited guests joining online calls - dubbed ‘zoombombings’ - have arisen in various forms.

One such incident saw a ‘cyber-prankster’ interrupt an online talk from UCL neuroscience lecturer Michael Moutoussis, adding explicit drawings to the shared whiteboard, reports Research Professional News. Moutoussis described the interruption as “nihilistic vandalism” and noted that although it was “quite funny”, the incident resulted in “several days of hard work wasted, and a missed much-needed slot to network and promote the work of myself and colleagues". He added, “we will certainly take measures to make sure it does not to happen again.”

Keeping security settings up to date is always an essential part of using any online tool, but in light of the growing number of security concerns around online collaborative platforms, protecting against attempted attacks is perhaps more important than ever. Here’s how to get started:

  • If you are rapidly deploying new tools, checking security settings and data protection settings remains essential

  • Strong, unique passwords provide additional protection for important accounts, and using password managers can help with this

  • If multi-factor authentication is an option, this can be a very good way of improving security

  • When using collaboration tools, being aware of where you share links to meetings is a key consideration. Are you posting the link where only your invited guests can see it?

  • Some collaboration tools allow the use of meeting passwords. These can be useful in preventing unwanted visitors

  • Unless your meeting requires any attendee to be able to share their screen or use a shared application, such as a whiteboard, it is recommended that you restrict sharing to the meeting host only

  • If you are sharing, then doing so by individual application windows is safer than sharing your entire screen. It is also safer to ensure applications not needed for the meeting are closed to limit accidental sharing

  • Think carefully about the content of your calls and chats, especially if you’re discussing confidential matters. Is the service you’re using sufficiently secure? Consider how the records of chats and calls stored?

  • Be aware of what's in view of your camera. Is there sensitive material on your desk or behind you when in a video call?

  • Do you know who is joining your meeting? Some platforms will allow you to monitor who is joining and when. This means you can take a register and tick people off as they join, locking the meeting when all attendees are present

No software is entirely free from vulnerabilities, and collaboration tools are no exception. Vendors regularly release patches and new versions to address vulnerabilities as they're identified. Make sure that you apply patches and are using the most up-to-date version, just as you should for any application or operating system. No software is entirely free from vulnerabilities, and collaboration tools are no exception. Also, note that criminals gravitate towards popular sites and services and especially try to take advantage of current events. However, we can all mitigate this risk by making sure security protections are in place from the outset.

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Originally Published at Under Creative Commons License.

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