The True Costs of Free Video Platforms

July 22, 2020
  by Blog Team

The Washington Post recently reported that a trove of private video calls from a popular free video conferencing platform have become available online for anyone to look up. Thanks to lax file naming protocols, recordings like business meetings, personal chats, telehealth consultations, and other sensitive meetings presumed to be secure are downloadable with a simple online search.

Meanwhile, as more business and personal interactions have moved online amidst the COVID-19 global health crisis, cybercriminals are increasingly targeting video platforms and communications. The wave of attacks include hacking, phishing, impersonation scams, and even the use of animated GIFs to install malicious code.

As the prevalence of video communications expands, new vulnerabilities and threats to user privacy have become apparent. To keep sensitive business and personal info secure, organizations and individuals need to be aware of the costs that may come with free video tools.

Common Security Issues

In an attempt to capitalize on surging demands for user-friendly video tools, some free video conferencing platforms have focused on scaling the usability of their tool — at the expense of security. In some cases, this has meant removing basic security features from default settings, leaving new users susceptible to attack.

The absence of meeting passwords, multi-factor authentication, or pre-conference screening rooms make it easy for anyone to sneak into a web video conference and capture sensitive information, or crash a meeting with obscene content. This is precisely what happened at a recent digital graduation ceremony for Oklahoma City University when hackers interrupted a message of love and unity with racial slurs and symbols of hate.

Without proper participant screening, hackers can also remain undetected and collect any information shared during the call including:

  • Personal info
  • Business proprietary data
  • Financial info
  • Account details

Even more worrisome, sometimes hackers don’t even need to join calls to make off with sensitive data. Cybercriminals have begun creating software installers corrupted with malware that enable them to hijack a user’s webcam, take screenshots, or log keystrokes. When the corrupted installer includes a working copy of the video tool, spying can continue undetected for weeks or months.

But hackers aren’t the only one’s users should beware of—they should also demand a high standard of security and transparency from their video service provider.

Privacy and Data Use

It’s an open secret that technology companies collect and use the data of their users and site visitors. This data can be used or sold for online advertising and is extremely valuable. According to one estimate, internet companies earn an average of $202 per American internet user. Take Facebook, for example, which attributes a whopping 63 percent of its earnings to targeted advertising. Meanwhile, Google’s ad revenue hit a new high of $33 billion in 2019. All of this, of course, is made possible thanks to the collection and analysis of personal data.

Just like other tech companies, video platforms collect user data to improve their service and in some cases generate revenue. One popular video platform has recently come under fire for its vague but far-reaching privacy policy which compelled users to accept the passive collection of information in order to use the service. In addition to the collection and storage of user data, this particular policy granted the provider access to user content — meaning video recordings, video transcripts, instant messages, files, and other content created or shared during video calls.

Not only can this data be used for target advertising, but it could even be used to develop facial or speech recognition algorithms without user consent.

Because video communication includes sound, video, images, and more, users need to be all the more aware of how their personal data is being collected and used.

Boost Security and Privacy with Vidyo

The most important way to protect your privacy during video communication is by using a trusted provider that places platform security and transparency above all.

At Vidyo, we recognize that our customers are our most valuable assets. We strive to maintain the utmost transparency when it comes to how we collect, store, use, and safeguard customer info.

Out of respect for customer privacy rights, Vidyo:

  • Only stores data on secure servers in accordance with local laws
  • Only retains customer data as long as necessary to deliver on our service promise
  • Enables customers to choose which type of communications they receive from us
  • Enables customers to choose which type of analytics we conduct with their data
  • Enables customer to choose how we use browser cookies

To further protect customers, our platform is built to guard against external threats. Security measures include encrypting all calls to keep information from prying eyes, verifying the identity of all call participants, and using unique usernames, meeting IDs, and self-destructing log-in credentials to keep meeting rooms secure.

To avoid the costs of data theft, misuse, and cyber vulnerability, choose a video conferencing provider that takes customer security and privacy seriously. To learn more about how VidyoConnect helps teams collaborate through secure video communication, contact us.

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