How to secure your video-conferencing apps

2 min read
Jamie

Jamie is always hungry. He also writes about digital privacy in exchange for sandwiches.

Laptop with a video camera icon with a lock on it.

If you are working from home right now, chances are you are relying heavily on at least one video-conferencing app to conduct all your previously in-office meetings. As awkward as video calls can be, they have nonetheless quickly woven themselves into the fabric of our lives, helping us stay in touch with family, friends, and co-workers.

The near-instantaneous mass adoption of video-conferencing apps like Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams has, as with any rapid adoption of new technology, attracted the attention of cyberattackers looking for weaknesses to exploit.

Zoom has been spotlighted in this regard, partly because of its sudden omnipresence in our lives, receiving heavy criticism over its password policies, “zoom-bombing,” and questionable routing of its servers. It has since explained and fixed its security issues, and has at least met Mozilla’s minimum security standards. And amid the flurry of news coverage, Zoom’s issues have also stirred discussion surrounding the security of video-call apps.

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Regardless of which app you’re using to take calls, there are a few things you should remain vigilant about when using a video-conferencing app, right from its installation all the way to joining a room. For more app-specific configurations, check the app’s support site for further information.

What is video conferencing?

Video conferencing is an audiovisual conversation between at least two people using a compatible device, like a phone or a laptop. The basic features of a video-conferencing app allow audio and video calling, but most apps these days also support file and image sharing, as well as screen sharing.

How to secure your video-conferencing app

When you’re installing a video-conferencing app:

  • This applies to downloading in general, but download from a trusted source. This can be an official website or your device’s app store. Avoid clicking on ads or shared links to download apps; find the source of the app and download from there.

When you’re setting up your app:

  • Password-protect your account with 2FA, or multi-factor authentication, to prevent anyone from brute-force hacking their way into your account.
  • You should also check the privacy settings on the app, including access to video and audio on your device, recording functions, and data sharing options.
  • Get familiar with how the app works. Check how the app records calls and shares screens. See if you can also password-protect your calls or set up a waiting room that lets you decide who is allowed into the call.

When you’re about to host or join a call:

  • Always make your calls private. Password-protect your conference room by default and don’t share the password in a public setting. It is important that you are in control of who is able to enter the meeting room you’re setting up.
  • If available on your video-conferencing app, use the waiting room feature, which enables you to see who’s trying to get into your call. This will come in handy if you’re seeing new individuals or phone numbers cropping up in the call; you’ll be able to triage who to let in.

As you use your app:

  • Don’t delay updating your devices and apps. Software updates are one of the best things you can do to secure your apps.
Jamie writes about current issues concerning digital privacy and security and is known to interview leading figures in tech. He also keeps an eye on changes in government censorship and surveillance.