Four key security tips when using any collaboration technology

With database breaches and ransomware attacks making daily news, security is now a top priority for companies, and collaboration solutions are no exception. In the current age of global connectivity, video conferencing and collaboration technologies have become an inescapable part of doing business. Business partners and remote employees around the world rely on these solutions to stay connected and communicate effectively, especially when in-person meetings aren’t possible.

While it’s easy enough to say, “my company needs a new web conferencing tool,” deciding on a secure solution capable of meeting the needs of your business is another matter entirely. In particular, technologies that allow for document sharing and remote desktop control can unintentionally open networks up to attack by malicious hackers. In order to avoid these risks and maintain security of your collaboration tools, below are four key factors to consider.

Preventing access from outside and unauthorized users

This is pretty obvious, but it bears repeating – never grant access to your network or connected technologies to unfamiliar or unauthorized users. Most companies will equip themselves with safeguards against employees accidentally sharing files or data with an outside request — typically with some variation of the “this user is not in your designated network” warning that we’ve all seen countless times. The problem, however, is that determining who does and doesn’t need access to certain files can get murky when collaborating with remote and third-party groups.

The best policy for preventing accidental access from outside users is to ask yourself, “do I know this person, and do they need to be involved in this specific project?” For instance, when inviting participants to a video conferencing meeting, use judgement when determining which parties need to be invited to contribute to the conversation. While still uncommon, inviting either a malicious outside user or someone whose system has been infected can potentially allow the infection to spread across other parties connected on your network via the conferencing system.

It’s also common for meeting participants to request access to files shared during video conference meetings. Before granting access, make sure the person making the request is someone trusted and that you or your colleagues have interacted with directly. Even when the email address appears to be from an organization you’ve worked with, if the name or specific address aren’t familiar, it’s best to err on the side of caution until you’ve determined the legitimacy of the request.

Preventing data loss and managing storage

One of the many perks of holding remote meetings or using content-sharing technologies is the ability to foster collaboration and create the opportunity for new ideas to emerge. As a result, it’s critical that the information captured during the meeting isn’t lost when everyone hangs up or goes on lunch break.

Most video conferencing and screen-sharing solutions offer some kind of recording capabilities including audio, visual, or text transcriptions of the conversation. These recording are stored in the cloud, and while this makes access to your files fast and convenient, it also leaves them vulnerable and dependent on the security of your cloud provider.

This is where encryption becomes especially important. In cases when companies are dealing with more sensitive information, implementing a tougher 195 or even 256-bit encryption standard significantly reduces the risk of data loss due to hacking or infection.

Maintaining network availability

More than almost any other technology, video conferencing and collaboration solutions depend on a constant, reliable network connection. When the goal of your technology is to facilitate outside communication, the loss of a smooth, reliable connection renders the solution effectively useless.

Businesses can take several precautions to avoid disruptions in their networks. First (and while not a security measure, still a basic good idea), ensure that your network connection has the proper capacity to avoid bandwidth issues or bottlenecks. High-definition video collaboration and content-sharing technologies are typically data-intensive, so companies utilizing these solutions broadly need to invest in the right level of bandwidth to allow these technologies to operate smoothly, even when the network may be bogged down with other activity.

Standard security measures like malware scanners play an integral role in blocking outside interference. Together with strong firewalls and proxy servers, these technologies are the first line of defense against bandwidth-targeted attacks such as DDoS incidents and other malicious data disruptions. When implemented and maintained correctly, these safeguards should prevent any network issues before they have a chance to begin.

Integrating with the full tech stack

Finally, businesses need to ensure their video conferencing and collaboration solutions are able to properly integrate with the rest of their IT stack. Issues with incompatibility of systems and security measures between technologies in a company’s back-end architecture can not only slow down or prevent you from using your conferencing solution, but leave your infrastructure vulnerable to infection or outside attack.

Ensuring compatibility with a businesses’ full tech stack will require a bit of research from your IT team. Fortunately, the shift towards a cloud-based operating model has made that process much simpler — in short, the cloud has removed much of the hassle of hardware management. Businesses can now instead focus on checking operating system and security standards to ensure their collaboration software is compatible with the rest of their stack.

Running and managing video conferencing and collaboration technologies in the cloud also dramatically simplifies regular security troubleshooting and maintenance. In many instances, vendors can push the necessary updates and security patches directly to businesses. This eliminates the need for IT teams to manually install those updates and coordinate software changes with the businesses’ other IT systems.

From small startups to enterprise-level global conglomerates, video conferencing, content-sharing and other collaboration technologies are now essential to every business. And in order for companies to utilize these technologies effectively, it’s important that they also safeguard their networks against the potential threats that come with a connected digital environment. But fear not – by addressing the four key areas outlined above, you can effectively minimize risks of outside attack or disruption while enjoying the full range of benefits that collaboration technologies have to offer.