Are Open Video Tools Safe?
The recent exposure of the NSA Prism program is certainly a hot topic in the news. It also causes us to take pause in considering all of our online communications and where our exposures are.
In the videoconferncing industry, there is a growing shift toward software based solutions. This is driven by a number of factors – the powerful capabilities of mobile and desktop computing devices, the shift toward a more mobile and decentralized workforce and the downward pressure on corporate and government budgets are among these. In addition to this, a growing number of people are gaining comfort in working with free tools such as Skype and Facetime.
Many of our customers today are considering whether a free tool such as Skype, or web-based collaboration tools such as GoToMeeting, can replace their corporate videoconferencing platform. It’s a worthwhile question and certainly something that should be considered as part of any business case analysis.
In our opinion, these less expensive tools are great for everyday personal conversations and for some casual business conversations. However, for a number of reasons, we do not believe they are ready for true business-class video communications. There are a number of reasons, including quality and robustness of the platforms to consider. But, in the shadow of the current political situation, it also reminds us of another important factor – security.
The harsh reality is that any open platform, such as Skype, is not going to be as secure as a dedicated secure videoconferencing environment. (Skype was listed as one of the products that the NSA did have access to). This should be of great concern to those in the medical industry (potential HIPAA violations), as well as those in the legal community, law enforcement and government. And as for corporate customers, what is the value of the privacy of your conversations?
There are too many affordable, software based platforms to consider before taking the risk of any free videoconferencing solution. Solutions from Lifesize, Vidyo, Polycom and Cisco, for example, provide the level of security along with the ease of use and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) requirements.