June 16, 2020

Privacy Tip of the Week: Protect Your Video Conferencing Apps

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Video conferencing apps keep us all connected. In today’s social landscape, with quarantines and travel restrictions around the globe, they’re arguably more important than ever. These apps allow us to keep in touch with friends and family, and make working from home more effective than ever. Recently, there seem to be more video apps than ever on the market. Zoom, for example, rose from obscurity to prominence, seemingly overnight. With so many different apps to choose from, along with increased use, it’s exceedingly important to protect your apps. Here are a few tips for just that:

  • Download from a secure source
  • Password protect your app
  • Maximize your privacy settings
  • Read the terms of service
  • Make your calls private
  • Keep your app updated

Download From a Secure Source

Most video conferencing apps are made for a variety of devices. Devices may include smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers, and even TVs. With so many app types, comes multiple download files to choose from. Some websites may collect all downloads for ease of use. Meanwhile, some downloads are only available in official device stores. Wherever you choose to download from, always make sure your source is credible. Places like Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store vet their apps to protect you from viruses and malware. Likewise, the official website of the company behind an app is also a safe source. However, a third-party website, for example one that reviews apps, are often best avoided.

Password Protect Your App

In order to use most video conferencing apps, you have to set up a user profile. This profile can include your name, address, birthday, and sometimes even credit card information. All of this is a hacker’s dream; if they somehow access your account, your profile data can be sold or even used to steal your identity. In addition, an unauthorized user on your account may even use it for malicious purposes like spamming other users or impersonating you to harm your reputation (even if this is rare). Because of the risks to your data, you should always password protect your video apps, and apps in general. In addition to a password, setting up two-factor authentication is also a good idea. This extra level of security requires anyone logging in to also have a temporary code to complete the login process.

Maximize Your Privacy Settings

Most apps allow users to set their desired level of privacy in the settings. There are a variety of changes a person can make to the level of privacy they have with an app. For example, users may be able to turn location services off, modify the information the app collects about you, and change the access it has to your device files. Privacy is a personal thing, so adjust the settings to your preferences. Just keep in mind: the stronger the settings, the better your privacy.

Read the Terms of Service

It’s no secret that companies want your data. They can use it to send you ads, create better services, and can even sell it to other organizations. Because of this, it’s important to read the terms of service and privacy policies for all video conferencing apps you use. You may be surprised at what blindly agreeing to these terms allows a company to do.

Zoom, for example, came under fire for their privacy policy allowing the company to collect and use user data for almost anything. Zoom also touted their use of encrypted calls. However, upon further examination, the method of encryption used technically granted them access to private calls, although the company stated employees were not permitted to do so. These are not the only complaints about the service. The company has since addressed and fixed many user issues. However, Zoom isn’t the first or only company to write less-than-user-friendly privacy policies, and they won’t be the last. Reading the policies ahead of time allows users to understand the risks of all apps, and decide whether or not they are worth it.

Make Your Calls Private

Many video conferencing apps allow users to privacy-protect their calls and conferences with passwords. This feature is great for users because it prevents surprise guests from dropping in to, well, eavesdrop on potentially sensitive conversations. Password protecting your calls gives you full control over who can participate.

Another option is the “waiting room” feature. It funnels all users into this room before you accept them into a call. If you don’t recognize someone in the waiting room, you can keep them from joining the conversation.

Keep Your App Updated

Outdated software may be more at risk for hacks and breaches. However, new updates often create fixes for these risks. Because of this, keeping your apps up-to-date is a great way of also keeping them as secure and private as possible.

For increased privacy for all your online activities, consider using HotBot VPN.

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Rhiannon is a professional writer and a social media coordinator for HotBot.com.

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