We’re living in an era where collaboration is king, and the average workplace is adapting to accommodate this trend. The traditional “cube farm” office layout is slowly being replaced by large, open-space environments, and buzzwords like ‘hot-desking’ and ‘huddle room’ continue to dominate the vernacular of office professionals.
These changes have come as a result of businesses realising the benefits of giving their employees more collaborative freedom. Simple brainstorm sessions give individuals the opportunity to bounce creative ideas off each other, while the implementation of collaborative meeting room technology allows for more effective and natural interaction between workers that sit on opposite sides of the world.
The very nature of collaboration involves regular communication between both internal and external individuals — this might simply be between employees from a different branch of the business, or people from a different company altogether. What’s more, this communication can take place in different ways, all of which present a threat to security.
First of all, there’s the traditional face-to-face meeting, which can often involve inviting external clients inside the company building. As soon as they enter, anyone with malicious intent has a relatively good chance of being able to access to your company’s network, whether it’s via an ethernet connection or via a guest WiFi network. From there, they could potentially view or download confidential information, or even launch a ransomware or DDoS attack that takes down the business’ IT infrastructure. On a more basic level, they might even be able to view confidential information simply by looking at other employees’ computer screens.
Secondly, there’s the video conferencing call — a collaboration method that businesses are using with increasing regularity. Not only does this pose the threat of external individuals joining with potentially malicious intent, but it also involves a lot of remote activity, whether it’s joining the meeting through a third-party conferencing service or communicating via webcam with a programme such as Skype. This gives hackers the opportunity to expose any vulnerabilities in these third-party systems and gain access to confidential company information in that way.
There are also threats that can be faced because of employees who are collaborating away from the office, whether they’re on a business trip abroad or simply holding a meeting in a coffee shop. One of the most common errors in situations like these is unknowingly connecting work laptops and/or smartphones to an unsecured WiFi network, which leaves data exposed and available to be accessed by cyber criminals. Again, the possibility of others picking up on confidential information by looking at your laptop or smartphone screen is not something that should be underestimated, either.
These are serious risks at play — cyber criminals can cause irreparable damage to businesses by getting hold of the right information, and once they’ve gained access to your system it’s usually too late to try and fight back. Businesses therefore need to be educated in the ways of safe and secure collaboration.
Firstly — and this is a tip that is going to sound rather obvious — collaborative businesses need to be aware of the risks that they face. Those who are not already considering the consequences need to evaluate when, how and why they’re at risk, and those who are already aware need to think about the different types of attacks they might be subjected to, as well as the potential implications of those attacks taking place.
Which leads us smoothly into our second tip — make sure you understand the security requirements of your own business. A large global bank company that regularly handles confidential customer data will obviously require very different security measures to those of a small start-up. This is why it’s vital that this is taken into account when it comes to outlining ways of working and even choosing the right meeting room technology. All devices and programmes implemented throughout the workplace should have legitimate security protocols and certificates to ensure they can’t be exposed by criminals, and some will even allow IT departments to customise the security settings to suit the requirements of the business.
Thirdly, all businesses should have a security strategy in place. This strategy sets out how the business must react to a cyber-attack or data breach, and should therefore be the go-to resource if the business suffers from either event. With a proactive strategy in place, businesses don’t need to worry about making any panicked mistakes that might worsen the impact of a security breach.
As collaboration becomes an effective and prosperous tool for businesses, it’s important that they do not put financial aspirations over their safety and security. Yes, collaboration can indeed lead to employees being more productive and creative, but without the right measures, it can come at the expense of leaked data and a tarnished reputation.
By Lieven Bertier, Head of Product Management, Barco