How to keep yourself safe from scammers while using virtual meetings


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – When it comes to virtual meetings, you may be giving criminals more information than you think – information that scammers can use to defraud you or worse.

Every office has some sort of security to keep the wrong people out. You’d never just throw open the door of your office to just anyone, yet that’s just what many are unwittingly doing with virtual meetings.

When the pandemic hit, the virtual meeting was our salvation for work or school, but it has a dark side.

“We’re seeing time and time again, people’s personal information may be exposed,” said Mat Newfield, chief security infrastructure officer for Unisys.

How does that happen? All you have to do is take a look at what’s in the background during people’s virtual meetings.

Newfield said there are are a number of things criminals look for which show up in the background of many people’s virtual meetings from home.

“They’re looking for family information,” he said. “People will hang up pictures with names and locations. “We’ve even seen situations where the camera is looking down on them and on the desk is a bill with your home address.”

Holiday cards, photos and notes with telephone numbers stuck to refrigerator are all clues that criminals can use to steal your identity or find ways to socially engineer you into giving up things that should remain secure.

You can stop that spying by using a virtual background on your meeting. Most platforms have them and they don’t require any complicated set up, not even a green screen. Just choose the virtual background setting and your room is now electronically covered.

“They won’t look perfect, but they are better than the alternative,” said Newfield.

It’s not just what’s in the background view that you have to worry about. Scammers will try and sneak into your virtual meeting.

“All platforms are susceptible if you’re not setting them up correctly,” said Newfield.

It all starts with passwords.

To safeguard yourself:

  • Create a different password for every meeting
  • Use a waiting room to vet those who want to enter
  • Require participants appear on camera and use a name not just a phone number to identify themselves

“As the host of the meeting to need to be cognizant of those coming in and who is a part of that meeting,” he said. “Kick people out who don’t identify themselves.”

Kids going to virtual classes are also vulnerable.

“Make sure they understand what is appropriate and what’s not appropriate to expose on camera,” said Newfield.

Everything from showing their toys to things from other family members can be risks. Make sure your children understand that.

Before you use any virtual meeting platform, learn about it first.

You can research the platform online. Talk to others in IT about best practices for that platform.

Remember when it comes to virtual meetings, your security is in your hands.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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