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The Nerd Side Of Life

Guide to Secure Group Chat and Conferencing Tools

In an age where walking meetings and everyday face-to-face interactions have been replaced by typing in group chats and holding regular Zoom conferences, it’s important to understand how to navigate the different tools. This is especially essential when it comes to the security of the different platforms that can be accessed. Even though we’ve more or less gotten used to online conferences, it’s hard to pinpoint what’s safe and what’s not, since we may not be fully aware of any third-party encryptions or any other listening devices. So what exactly are the secured online SaaS tools? How can we ensure that we’re communicating as safely as possible? Are there effective ways to prevent a cybersecurity breach? Here’s are some ways to make sure that you’re able to chat and communicate online in a safe environment. 

1. Understand how encryption goes.

It’s easy to get caught up in all the internet and technological lingo. There are certain terms and concepts, however, that need to be understood in order to at least have some sort of peace of mind. One of these is the concept of encryption. This is when the info you give gets transformed into code. Its purpose includes confidentiality and authentication. 

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End-to-End vs. To-Server

There are two types: end-to-end encryption, and encryption to-server. In end-to-end, the encryption happens before your message is sent, or before it even leaves the device. It only gets decrypted once it has been sent to to the other party. This is useful for sending messages that contain sensitive information. Meanwhile, encryption to-server is slightly similar to the previous type since the message is encrypted before it’s sent. However, it gets processed and re-encrypted again by the platform used before it is officially transmitted to the other party’s device. 

2. Do you own research.

Simply using any given platform or communication service blindly can have a lot of negative consequences when it comes to keeping your messages safe and secure. Just because you see a couple of others using a particular platform doesn’t automatically mean you can jump in right away and ride the wave. Try and research about the services before giving out your information. Checking the number of users and how long it has been running is a key step in this. You can also try to find out if the platform has ever been under fire for security breaches or privacy issues. It might take a few extra steps to do this part, but it is worth it if you value your privacy.  

3.  Be careful with videos and screen-sharing.

With a couple of years’ experience in an online setting, it’s hard to be a stranger to the clumsy mistake of accidentally talking while thinking you’re on mute. As small as it seems though, security breaches can take place due to these mistakes. If you’re not the type to use a video background during online meetings, be sure that your surroundings do not reveal anything too personal. You may have photos in your room that you would rather keep private. Check your appearance a few minutes before any meeting to ensure that you’re not compromising yourself. Moreover, taking care while screen-sharing is also a must. Especially if you’re not exactly used to doing so, you might be sharing your entire desktop instead of a specific internet tab. This could leak important documents, notes, and even emails. If you happen to be assigned the task of screen-sharing, make sure to practice beforehand so as to prevent any unwanted information leaks.

4. Ask for permission before recording.

Previous points pertain to conferencing and communicating more so as a participant in a conference. But what about when you’re tasked to host the meeting? Some meetings need to be recorded for future reference, or for documentation purposes. This is not something new or unheard of, and it happens in a number of seminars and conferences. However, even though it appears to be common practice, it’s still better to ask permission. Some platforms allow the users the option to leave once the meeting has started being recorded. It is still better, though, to let any meeting participants know beforehand through a set of written guidelines or reminders. This way, they are able to set their expectations before they even enter the call instead of being surprised on the day of the meeting itself that the session if being recorded.

Too Cautious?

In truth, it’s hard to ever be completely sure of how safe a certain platform is. However, as the saying goes, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. In the digital age, we generally see what’s directly shown to us, and not much more. It’s safe to say that we don’t exactly know everything that goes on—especially from the perspective of the other side of the screen. As such, you can never really be too cautious when it comes to these things.

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