Video conferencing is a highly effective way for companies and organizations to communicate with clients, contractors, colleagues and other people who can't be physically present for a conventional meeting. It saves time, cuts down on expenses and eliminates the carbon emissions associated with commuting and business travel.
But the information that is sent back and forth may be sensitive, and data sent using Internet protocols (IP) or Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) on shared systems may be vulnerable to security risks. There are a few measures you can take to protect your video conferencing equipment from hackers and other concerns.
According to the New York Times, hackers may be eyeing flaws in video conferencing security in order to gain access to financial data and other sensitive information. A Boston-based company called Rapid7 that looks for security holes in electronic equipment was able to eavesdrop in the conference rooms of several top venture capital firms, law firms, oil companies, courtrooms and even Goldman Sachs.
H.D. Moore of Rapid7 told the New York Times that much of the problem originates with the fact that even when companies spend thousands of dollars on top-quality equipment, administrators may be setting it up outside firewalls or using vulnerable configurations that could be exploited.
Keeping your video conferencing equipment safe and secure mostly involves changing a few settings in your software, taking some simple precautions and ensuring that your system is set up by an expert.
If your video conferencing system has an auto-answer feature that automatically answers all incoming calls and enables them to sit in on meetings, disable it or change the security settings. Most brands of software have basic protections like passwords, auto-mute and camera control lockup, but you should always check them to ensure that they're set up for the maximum security level that is practical for your usage.
Consider using a subscription-based video conferencing company that stores all video conferencing data in highly secure off-site facilities. Don't store archived video conferencing data on standard computers and hard drives, which can be susceptible to outside intrusion.
Place your video conferencing system behind a firewall. Skipping this step avoids many of the complex processes involved in configuring the equipment, but it's not a good idea.
Be aware that most video conferencing systems don't contain sensitive data, and also typically come with encryption technology that is sufficient for all non-military use. The only sensitive information that hackers may have access to may be contained in your video conferences. As long as your connection is secure and outsiders can't automatically access your system, your data is likely safe.
Protect your system with an administrative password. This will protect all important settings from outside manipulation. Assigning individual passwords to each person who accesses the system may further enhance security, giving access only to those with appropriate log-in information.
Configure your teleconferencing system to keep all microphones on mute until they are physically turned on by participants during the meeting.
Cover your cameras when they're not in use. Many webcams and video conferencing cameras come with caps that protect the lenses, or covers for travel. This will ensure that, if hackers did gain access to your equipment, they would not be able to observe your boardroom.
Have your video conferencing equipment installed by an experienced, knowledgable IT professional. It may be tempting for companies and organizations on a budget to save as much money as they can in this area, but proper setup of all IT equipment is priceless.