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Ian Hulme, the ICO’s Director of Assurance gives business owners, employers and managers advice about how to safely roll out the latest video conferencing technology

The COVID-19 crisis is changing the way we live our lives. Keeping our distance means many of us are working from home for the first time and adapting to new ways of doing our jobs.

Thankfully, technology is helping us all stay connected. Video conferencing software and apps are valuable ways of doing business, holding staff meetings and keeping in touch with colleagues.

But with everyone working under such extraordinary circumstances, it’s easy to prioritise convenience over security. The ICO can help make it easy to have it all ways – combining the efficiency of digital connection with the necessity for privacy protection.

We’ve got advice you can share with your staff to ensure they can communicate with confidence.

Have you checked the privacy and security settings?

Video conferencing technology must be transparent. Users need to know how their data will be processed, as well as having choice and control over it. So you should make use of privacy and security features. These can include restricting access to meetings using passwords, controlling when people can join the meeting or controlling who is allowed to share their screens. Think about who and how you share the meeting ID or password.

You should make these choices before you start the meeting and consider providing employees with clear advice on which features to use and how.         

Are you aware of phishing risks?

Many of us are aware of the signs of phishing emails or texts, but would you know what to look out for in a video chat? The ‘live chat feature’ can be used by malicious people to spread phishing messages. Be vigilant. Don’t click on links or attachments you were not expecting or from meeting attendees you do not recognise. 

Have you checked your organisation’s policy?

Whilst you may have a preferred app to keep in touch with your friends and family, you should check to see which tool your organisation has chosen to use. Organisations should select a video conferencing platform that matches their policies.

Have you ensured all software is up-to-date?

One of the most effective security measures you can take is to keep all your software up-to-date, and video conferencing software is no exception. If you have installed a video conferencing app, keep it up to date by applying all available software updates regularly. Your organisation may well have configured your equipment to do this automatically. If you access a video conferencing service via a web browser, then make sure the browser is kept up to date too. 

Is this still the right tool for the job?

In a time of crisis, decisions are often made quickly in order to get the job done. But in the long run, circumstances can change and the risk balance case might look different. There is no reason to remain committed to using a particular tool or service forever just because you used it in an emergency. Re-visit your decision when you eventually have time and resources to do so. 

Ian Hulme is Director of Regulatory Assurance at the ICO.