Video conferencing has never been more popular and is now used across almost all industries. While the convenience of this technology is obvious, it also poses a privacy risk. People often join meetings that they’re not supposed to and confidential information is often shared unnecessarily. Video conferencing platforms have features which prevent both of these issues from occurring. But such functionality isn’t always used.
So how do you use video conferencing without sharing the wrong information? Here are 12 ways to make video conferences private.
1. Use a Waiting Room
If you’re hosting a meeting, you should always use a waiting room. Most video conferencing tools have this feature. Once turned on, anyone who wants to attend a meeting is first asked to wait. This allows the meeting organizer to personally verify all attendees. Provided the organizer is paying attention, this makes it impossible for anyone to attend without permission.
2. Use Random Meeting IDs
Meeting IDs are often reused. This is obviously convenient, but it also means that anybody who knows the previous meeting ID can show up uninvited. Most video conferencing platforms allow you to generate random IDs. They also allow you to set up password protection. Once set up, each attendee will require both the meeting ID and password in order to attend.
3. Use Virtual Backgrounds
Virtual backgrounds are ideal for both hiding your location and preventing anything in the background from being seen. This is particularly important in business settings where you may have confidential documents. But it’s also useful if you don’t want attendees figuring out where you live. If you want to use a virtual background, you should check the settings of your video conferencing app. You can also download additional apps which are specifically designed for this purpose.
4. Turn Your Camera or Microphone Off
When you attend a meeting, most video conferencing platforms turn your camera and microphone on by default. However, you can typically adjust the settings so that these remain off by default. It’s also possible to turn them off manually and still remain in the meeting. This is useful if you don’t want people to be able to watch or listen to you while you are not contributing.
5. Avoid Links in Chatrooms
Chatrooms are useful for some types of communication, but they have the potential to be more harmful than video conferencing. A chatroom allows you to share both links and files. Either one of these options can be used to spread malware. Chatrooms are also ideal for launching phishing attacks. Before clicking on anything in a chatroom, you should check who sent it.
If you’re the meeting organizer, it’s possible to turn this feature off completely.
6. Understand Private Chats
Private chats can also pose a privacy risk if you don’t understand how they work. Many video conferencing tools have transcription functionality. When turned on, this records any private messages that occur during a meeting and makes them available to the meeting host. This means that private chats aren’t really private. You should therefore avoid saying anything in a private chat that you wouldn’t say publicly.
Video conferences should only be discussed using private communication. Unfortunately, they are often advertised on social media. This is obviously faster than contacting attendees individually, but it also shows the meeting ID to strangers. If you’re attending a meeting that’s been advertised publicly, you should always practice additional caution. It may be an indication that other basic security practices aren’t being followed.
8. Ask Permission for Recording
Important video conferences are often recorded. There are many valid reasons for doing this, but it’s important that all participants are made aware that it’s happening. Most video conferencing tools provide an icon that can be used to indicate recording in progress. If you attend a meeting, however, these icons aren’t always used.
9. Be Careful With Screen Sharing
Screen sharing is an important productivity tool, but it also has obvious privacy drawbacks. Before turning screen sharing on, check your screen for anything which could contain confidential information. Screen sharing can also be turned off by the meeting host and this prevents uninvited guests from causing a disruption.
10. Keep Software Up to Date
Video conferencing platforms are increasingly popular and this makes them popular targets for hackers. All platforms are updated regularly and this ensures that if security weaknesses are discovered, they are immediately patched. You should install these updates as they are released.
Some hackers advertise fake versions of these apps, so you should therefore only download video conferencing apps from the vendor’s website, making sure they’re verified as real.
11. Keep Your Computer and Wi-Fi Secure
Your video conferences are only as secure as the computer and internet connection that you are using. If your computer has malware or you are connected to the internet using an unencrypted Wi-Fi connection, it may be possible for a malicious actor to record what you are saying. To avoid malware, you should be careful what you download and use reputable antivirus software. You should also avoid unencrypted Wi-Fi hotspots or install a VPN.
12. Report Suspicious Activity
If you see somebody behaving suspiciously in a video conference, always bring it to the attention of the meeting organizer. Uninvited guests are a common occurrence at video conferences and they rely on other attendees not paying attention. Many people assume that the host will prevent uninvited guests, but they are often busy with other tasks. It is therefore the responsibility of all attendees to be vigilant.
Video Conferencing Isn’t Always Private
Video conferencing is becoming a requirement for many jobs. When used incorrectly, it’s easy to reveal more information about yourself than you would like. But there are many ways that you can prevent this occurring.
It’s important to understand that when you attend a virtual meeting, it isn’t always possible to tell who is watching. Both your video feed and your behavior should therefore be optimized to reveal as little about yourself as possible.
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