Staying safe in online video calls

More and more people are working from home or staying in touch with friends and relatives using online methods. There is no doubt that video conferencing is becoming more and more popular, whether for business or to connect with friends and family.

Some devices have a video conferencing facility (that is, more than two callers sharing one call) built in, such as Apple’s FaceTime, and there are many other standalone video conferencing apps which you can download such as Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams and others.

Here are four steps to keep yourself secure when using video conferencing:

1 – Downloading video conferencing software

  • Always download your software or app from a trusted source such as Apple’s App Store, Google Play or from the service provider’s website.
  • Research the software you want to use. If a free version is offered check that this fits your security requirements and you understand what you are allowing the software/app to access on your system, such as your contacts, microphone, webcam, etc. You may have the option to opt out of sharing data.

2 – Setting up video conferencing services

  • Make sure that the password you use for your video conferencing account is different to all your other passwords (also ensure that it is long and complex). Enable two-factor authentication for the account if available.
  • Test the service before making your first call, make sure you learn how to mute your microphone and turn off the webcam when not required.
  • Find out how to tell if the meeting is being recorded and if your microphone/webcam is on.

3 – Hosting and joining calls

  • Do not make your calls public. Connect directly to the people you want to talk to or send out private links to your individual contacts.
  • Set up the call so that a password is required to join. When you’ve set up a password protected conference, don’t then make the password known on a general social media post: always send it by secure private messaging to the participants you want to take part.
  • Use the lobby /private room feature of the app to ensure you know who has arrived before letting them join the call.
  • Consider what your camera will show on the call, you may want to consider using a background, most video conferencing tools provide guidance on how you can do this. Always be aware of your own surroundings, you don’t want to give away private information which may be visible on camera.

4 – Keep all devices and applications up to date

  • Keeping your devices and software up to date is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself online. Updating all the apps and your devices operating system when you are prompted will immediately improve your security and may provide you with some new features.

For further guidance on video conferencing from the National Cyber Security Centre visit their site.