It took a while, but videoconferences are finally getting more secure. What changed? Here’s where the vital technology stands five months after the pandemic emerged.
Thanks to COVID-19, videoconferencing transformed from a minor piece in the productivity toolkit to an essential one almost overnight.
That transformation came with problems—security being the biggest. Zoom, even as it evolved into a widely used mainstream tool, was heavily scrutinized by the tech press for its vulnerabilities. Organizations had to make big decisions fast about which among the array of new remote-work tools to use. And that means corners were often cut.
But now that we’re five months into our mass experiment in remote work, how is videoconferencing security holding up? A quick check-in:
Convenience outweighed security—at first. When the COVID-19 outbreak emerged, many companies went for the easy solution, mainly because they had to implement something in a limited amount of time. But now organizations have a better understanding of the issues. “With the growing remote workforce and widespread adoption of video conferencing technologies, a top priority for enterprises has become tackling the security challenges that enable an agile working environment,” No Jitter contributor Anurag Lal recently noted.
Software makers are getting better at working on fixes. At the beginning of the pandemic, incidents of “Zoom-bombing,” phishing, and other disruptive activities raised security concerns for employees. But since then, Google and other companies have taken steps to prevent such attacks on their platforms. It took a little time, but we may soon find security catching up with user needs.
Compliance has gained importance. Recently, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released a document detailing steps for properly securing a videoconferencing network. The document recommends barring employees from public Wi-Fi networks, thoroughly testing videoconferencing platforms, and allowing calls only through vetted tools. “For optimum risk mitigation, organizations should implement measures at both the organizational and user levels,” the document states [PDF].
A once-slow market is expected to keep growing. Videoconferencing is likely to keep improving, driven by a sudden wave of new startups, according to TechCrunch. (One example is Mmhmm, a tool developed by Evernote founder Phil Libin that aims to make it possible to host Weekend Update-style newscasts from the comfort of your bedroom.) “Zoom was growing quickly before the pandemic,” the site’s Alex Wilhelm writes. “Now the public company and a host of rivals, big and small, all want a larger slice of an expanding pie.” These tools are cool, of course, but are they compliant? These developments will create some challenging new security discussions in the coming months.