With 45% of Americans working remotely all or part of the time, virtual meetings have become a staple in the workplace. For remote employees, videoconferencing offers a replacement for the typical physical face-to-face interactions of an office, keeping people connected no matter their location. 

However, the benefits of virtual meetings don’t just apply to remote work. In-person offices are harnessing videoconferencing to connect between distant branches or international clients, saving some companies millions of dollars in travel expenses and lost work time. 

Virtual meetings have been shown to provide a number of advantages– 

  • Videoconferencing boosts productivity and operational savings. Using virtual meetings, almost 9 out of 10 employees have been able to decrease the time it takes to complete projects.
  • Hybrid employees save companies an average of $11,000 a year thanks to reduced real estate needs, higher productivity, and lower turnover. 
  • 87% of video conference users have experienced a faster decision-making process
  • 55% of business professionals believe that companies using videoconferencing are more collaborative, and 50% believe they are more innovative. 

While videoconferencing increases productivity and efficiency and decreases operational costs, there are some risks involved. Gone are the days of phishing emails promising an inheritance from a far-off relative. Online scams are changing with the times, and virtual meetings offer a lucrative target for tech-savvy hackers.

This article will discuss the importance of videoconferencing security as well as best practices you can follow to protect the privacy of your online meetings. 

Why Does Virtual Meeting Security Matter?

Virtual meeting security matters because privacy matters. Not only do you need to protect company knowledge, but your employees and clients have a reasonable expectation that their information will be guarded as well. Maintaining security during video conferencing ensures that only the people you want to involve in a conversation are present. I

What Are the Risks Associated With Poor Meeting Security?

Leaving your front door unlocked makes it much easier for someone to enter and cause damage. 

The same holds true for your virtual meetings. When there are no safeguards in place to prevent access, it’s much easier for intruders to freely enter your meetings and do as they please.

Intruders may not always be someone seeking to cause harm. It could be as simple as an employee entering a meeting they’re not supposed to attend and hearing confidential information. However, there’s always the chance that someone may try to enter to cause harm– anyone from a disgruntled ex-employee to a competitor could exploit weaknesses in your security. If they remain for long, they can hear information they’re not supposed to have or even use the chat to send malicious links that, once clicked, will provide access to proprietary information on employees’ computers. 

At best, poor meeting security could allow someone to hear something they shouldn’t. At worst, it can have financial or legal implications for your company. 

Virtual Meeting Security Best Practices

Videoconferencing security isn’t just a concern while your online meetings are taking place. It requires following certain protocols before, during, and after each session. Let’s walk through some security practices you can put into place.

  • Maintain your personal privacy

Almost all the information available about virtual meeting security is in regards to protecting company information. Are you taking the same steps to protect your personal information?

Maybe you want to maintain a firm boundary between your work and personal life, or you strive for a high level of professionalism. There are a few ways to conceal the sights and sounds that a virtual meeting discloses. First, consider using a virtual background or changing your setting to blur your current background. In addition, you can use Krisp to filter out background noises. With Krisp, all of the audio processing happens directly on your device, so your meetings never land in a cloud where someone else can access them.

  • Control meeting access

If you’re scheduling a string of online meetings, it’s tempting to use the same link for each one so you don’t have to hop in and out of different calls all day. However, using the same login information again and again can inadvertently lead to someone being in a meeting they’re not supposed to attend. Even though it’s more work for you, use a different link and password for each meeting. Unique login information helps ensure that only intended guests are attending a virtual meeting.

You can also adjust your setting to enable a waiting room. With this feature, participants log in and then wait individually for the host to begin the meeting. Most video conferencing softwares– including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and Webex– provide the option of a waiting room. Some programs even give the host the option to admit waiting participants one by one or as a group. 

  • Monitor participants

Although scammers and hackers are constantly coming up with new, enterprising ways to take advantage of gaps in security, it’s still very difficult for them to avoid being seen once they join a meeting. Stay aware of exactly who everyone is in attendance with two features: the meeting dashboard and lock. 

Most videoconferencing software provide a dashboard that lists the name of each participant. Keep an eye on this list as people join the meeting. If a generic username leaves you guessing who someone is, ask them to confirm their identity by quickly turning their camera on. It’s probably an employee joining on an unfamiliar device, but as the saying goes, better safe than sorry. 

When all of your meeting participants have joined, lock the meeting so that no one else can join, even if they have the correct meeting ID and password. With the meeting locked, you can focus your attention on what’s being said instead of who’s still joining. If a meeting participant accidentally logs out (hey– it happens to the best of us) you’ll need to unlock the meeting to allow them back in.

  • Manage file sharing

Employee records are shared during performance reviews. Financial data is presented in quarterly status meetings. Private company information is distributed to governance teams. 

Meetings require certain people to access confidential documents and information. It’s important that you have a system in place for how you share confidential materials in preparation for virtual meetings. It could be as simple as ensuring that documents are only accessible to those who need access. If privacy is more of a concern, you can use file-sharing services that require a password for document access.

During meetings, limit who can share their screen. Unless you plan on having others share their screen, change the settings to host-only screen sharing. You’ll prevent participants from accidentally publicizing something they shouldn’t. 

  • Record thoughtfully

Recording your online meetings is a no-brainer, right? After all, it just takes the click of a button, and it gives you instant access to everything that was said. 

In the words of mothers everywhere, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Now, there are a few reasons to record a meeting. If you need to recall what was said word-for-word, a recording is handy. If scheduling conflicts prevent a key team member from attending, a recording is also beneficial. In most cases, however, it’s enough just to take notes during the meeting. 

If you do record, save the video to your desktop rather than the cloud and change its name from the generic recording name that the software provides. This greatly reduces the risk of others being able to access and share it.

  • Ensure a secure connection

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency recommends using a secure internet connection for video conferencing. This can mean avoiding public WiFi options, such as networks available from the local library or coffee shop. Of course, it’s always good practice to use a private device for work, rather than computers available to the public.

For remote workers, it’s important to change the default password for your router and WiFi to a strong password that’s hard to guess. Make sure your router is using WPA2 or WPA3 wireless encryption standards. 

  • Use organization issued devices

Company-issued devices can be a sticky subject; providing every remote employee with a computer is pricey. At the same time, a security breach will end up costing your company in unexpected ways. 

If it’s at all within your budget, equip remote employees with a computer for work. Collaborate with IT to install security measures on each. IT can even configure the computers to provide remote access that allows for easier troubleshooting and ensures the devices are always updated with the latest versions of software. 

  • Establish expectations

More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of employees have experience with online meetings. The familiarity of a once uncommon platform may lull individuals into a false sense of security, but maintaining security during your virtual meetings should remain a priority for all. 

After considering what security measures you want to implement as standard practice, communicate your expectations by creating a short document to share with others. You could– 

  • Review it during a company-wide meeting.
  • Have managers share it during individual department meetings. 
  • Create a short recording that explains your security expectations and send it through email. 
  • Email the document to all employees.
  • Attach it to each meeting invitation.

Online meetings are here to stay. By implementing important security practices, you can be sure that everyone involved has the best experience possible.