5 Better Online Meeting Tools - Video Conferencing Security
Jacques du Rand 2020-08-26
Online meeting tools are nothing new in tech, but with lockdown the need for more people, companies and industries to use them became a priority.
A favourite amongst these companies has been Zoom. Zoom quickly became incredibly popular as it also allowed you to change your background - so you could appear like you are anywhere in the world. This added smiles and great fun to everyone that used the program. But sadly the program also has a dark side that very few people know about, and where they do, very few want to acknowledge it.
We’ve all seen those Zoom meeting fails gone viral on social media and had a good laugh at the guy that wasn’t wearing pants in a meeting; the lady who had her cat/dog/kid interrupt the meeting or the person that burst through the private door, very inappropriately. The viral videos also contain those instances where unexpected participants ‘bomb’ your call - kind of like that ‘flash mob’ craze a few years ago, where a group of people would all of sudden jump up somewhere public and start a choreographed dance session, then disappear.
When that happens in your video call, it is no laughing matter.
“ Zoom bombing ” as the term has become affectionately known is when someone exploits insecurities in your Zoom set-up to (at the lowest level) access your meeting. In the most harmless violation they join your meeting and make rude or obscene remarks and leave. Maybe you giggled as it happened - but what would you say if they interrupted your child with some lewd message whilst they are doing homework? In the next exploitation level they are able to take control of your camera and potentially spy on you. Sounds like it's from some sci-fi movie, or a conspiracy theory. This stuff happens . Daily. At the more extreme hacks, hackers are able to access the installed software and exploit vulnerabilities to steal data and gain access directly on your computer. One need only Google “ why is zoom so bad ” to find a plethora of warnings.
Of course Zoom’s popularity has also made it an easy target for cyber criminals as they know it to be a popular program, and Zoom’s own development team have been reported putting increased focus on their software security. But, we’re not here to bash any software, only to perhaps help you make more informed decisions.
Digital Security & Online Meetings
Cybercrime activities are not new, but as we’ve mentioned, cyber criminals are always on the lookout for trends to exploit. Online video conferencing tools are just the latest trend for them to take advantage of.
Zoom is of course not the only video conferencing tool that hackers have taken advantage of, but just so happens to be one of the most popular tools being used - hence the increased focus and activity around it.
Some basic tips to improve your security during any video conferencing meeting includes:
- Restrict access - or password protect your meeting link. This way only authorised users will gain access to your meeting.
- Enforce a waiting room/foyer - this means the host must ‘allow’ access to participants as they wish to join, especially if they are not from the company domain as one example.
- Secure file transfers - ensure the software you are using complies with end-to-end encryption.
- Web protocols - use web protocols instead of downloading the software (where you can). Web protocols usually get access to the latest security encryption a lot faster than their downloaded app counterparts.
- Install a VPN - although it won’t necessarily stop app attacks, it can assist when you are using a browser based meeting tool. VPNs offer an added level of protection to your internet usage. Check out our list of top VPNs available in South Africa here .
Top 5 Secure Online Meeting Tools - That are Free
There are loads of meeting tool options, but very few are both good and free.
Our top picks for conducting online meetings in a secure environment, over web with easy, no fuss set-up include:
- The big guns. They have teams just focussed on security. Having built their own browser (Chrome) you can be assured of enhanced security.
- Browser and app version.
- Participants : Max 100 participants for non-G-Suite users.
- The OpenSource favourite.
- Browser and app version.
- Participants : Unlimited. However, performance struggles on large groups (>20). The custom installed version handles larger groups a little better.
- An old favourite.
- You can download the app to desktop or mobile. What is interesting is that Skype now also allows a browser based meeting tool in addition.
- Participants : Skype allows up to 50 for online meetings. Skype for Business allows up to 250 participants.
- Built by Cisco.
- Browser based.
- Participants : Up to 100 participants.
- The other big name on the list, although not many people’s favourite.
- Browser and app version.
- Participants : Max 500k participants
Internet Speed Requirements
For Google Meet, the internet connection requirements are quite modest, they differentiate between HD and SD video. Most of the online meeting software will have similar internet speed requirements.
High Definition (HD)
- 2.6 mbps with 2 participants.
- 3.2 mbps with 5 participants.
- 4.0 mbps with 10 participants.
Standard Definition (SD)
- 1 mbps with 2 participants.
- 1.5 mbps with 5 participants.
- 2 mbps with 10 participants.
Even though we have now moved to level 2 of lockdown, it looks like a fair amount of companies will continue to offer their staff a work-from-home option. Online meeting tools are here to stay. The next time you have a colleague suggest an online meeting, perhaps try one of the other tools mentioned above. They might not give you fancy backgrounds, but they will keep your data safe.
If your internet is giving you issues during your online video calls, try one of our internet speed tests . If the results are less than pleasing, especially after consistent testing (and you’ve tried extending your router and all the magic tricks in the book) perhaps consider switching to another internet provider on your network, or a higher data package.