Cybersecurity Awareness Month continues, and today I have another topic sure to send chills down your spine: video calls! Okay, maybe the idea of participating in a video call doesn’t make you shiver, but the possibility of exposing sensitive information certainly should.
You’ve likely seen news footage of people committing gaffes during a videoconference by now, and as mortifying as it is to imagine being caught with your pants down on a video call — possibly literally — this is only one potential danger. Even more concerning is the risk of exposing sensitive personal or business information during a videoconference, where that information could fall into the hands of someone with bad intentions. Unprincipled competitors, identity thieves, cyberintruders and stalkers can all use and abuse information disseminated during a video call to cause untold damage.
So how do you protect yourself?
The first and most important step is mindfulness. Think about what’s visible behind you and around you when you’re on camera — anything with your full name, date of birth or address should be obscured, whether it’s a diploma on the wall, an Amazon delivery box you left on a desk with the shipping label exposed, or anything in between. The easiest way to avoid this risk is simple: use a virtual background. This takes all the work out of protecting your recording location from prying eyes, with minimal time investment on your part. If your employer prefers people not use virtual backgrounds to reduce distractions during meetings, most major video conferencing software platforms allow you to simply blur out the room around you.
On a similar note, when called upon to share your screen during a meeting, be mindful of what else you have open on your desktop and be careful of what you display on screen. Whether that’s identifying information, proprietary information belonging to an employer, or just an open tab of something NSFW, any such mishap could lead to undesirable consequences. Even the titles of tabs in an open browser window can contain information that can be used by a determined exploiter, such as your name, medical data, login information like account names, and so on.
Don’t just be mindful of what you show; you need to think about what you say during a recorded call as well. If possible, join meetings away from anyone sharing your home or office whose phone conversations or discussion could be picked up on mic – not just because crosstalk is distracting and obnoxious during meetings, but also because they may not know they are audible during a recording. Also, avoid side conversations during recorded calls even after the meeting has been adjourned, as the call may still be recorded until you disconnect.
Lastly, learn how to tell when a call is being recorded on any video conferencing app you use, and always check whether a video call is being recorded. All major platforms display visual and audible notifications when a call is being recorded, often in the form of a red circle visible in the call’s browser window. If your meeting is being recorded, confirm with the organizers that access to the recordings is protected to ensure that they can only be accessed by approved persons.
I hope these tips resonate with you, and if nothing else inspire you to scrutinize your own information security processes. With your mind at ease about your videoconferencing security, you can get back to the enjoyable kind of scares – and maybe cracking into that Halloween candy a little early.