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What’s behind you?

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, online meeting has boomed, with organisations rushing to get their staff organised, to be able to communicate with clients and each other.

We all seem to have embraced the virtual world. TV channels produced endless interviews featuring ‘professionals’ at home including cabinet ministers, pop stars, virtual choirs of 400 plus people, children’s birthday parties with entertainers, even royalty had a go, all in little boxes on a screen!

Apart from ‘killing’ network bandwidth and making business meetings sometimes flaky to connect, or even hear what is being said, the impact of this phenomena is to make us voyeurs into someone else’s home, which in turn, opens us up to hackers or other ‘baddies’ who get a chance to review what we have. It is so easy to take a screenshot and then take your time to process the image, zooming in on details which usually, would never be seen, unless you were inside the house.

Colin Tankard, Managing Director of IT security company Digital Pathways offers ten things to think about when you are in an online meeting.

1. It is fun to see what someone’s house looks like, but if you want to be listened to, keep your background plain, or use the blur capabilities of some online tools. If you have to do your meeting from your bedroom, tidy up what’s behind you, and don’t leave the washing, even if it is clean, hanging on a door!

2. There is nothing worse than looking up someone’s nose but this seems to be a common issue when setting up cameras and with HD cameras, the sight of nostril hair is not appealing! Lift your device, so it is level with your face, and avoid unnatural angles.

3. Be aware of people walking behind you. This can be a distraction to your audience and also to you, should they not realise you are on a video meeting and say or do something embarrassing!

4. Think about what personal information you may have on show. Turn around any photo’s to protect individual’s identity and also consider the GDPR aspects of PII data, as this is still in scope for the regulation and could lead to a data breach and ICO investigation.

5. What is displayed behind you could also say a lot about you and your hobbies. This is a good source of information for a hacker, who will use it to try and guess your password theme. For example, if you have a model of an E Type Jaguar and books on the history of the mark, there is a good chance your passwords might be linked to the brand.

6. A hacker can also gain information from what is behind you to furnish a phishing email campaign, using relevant information that it is likely that you will find of interest and therefore, more likely to click on a link. If you have a lot of books by a particular author for instance, you could be the target of a phishing campaign with content relevant to that author, including a call to action that you can’t resist.

7. Often when online, other technology used in the house can be seen. A recent image of a member of the Royal Family, holding an online meeting, revealed a specific IP phone. Printers are often in view giving a hacker a head start about routes to hack, by sending a spoof message appearing to come from your printer manufacturer or known backdoors in devices, to allow for remote connections.

8. If you have started a meeting, be aware that people could still be trying to enter and require you to admit them. There is nothing worse than being held outside a meeting and not having any way of alerting the presenter. If you have started a session, ensure you either have two screens open, so you can see the ‘admit to meeting alert’ or, keep an eye on the participants’ tab to see if anyone new has joined.

9. If your meeting is sensitive, always use a password to enable participants to enter. It is easy for someone to get into a meeting and stay hidden if you are not careful.

10. Lights, action, camera! Make sure you look good, have clothes that don’t dazzle the camera, such a pinstriped shirt that looks psychedelic online and sends your audience into a trance, and pay attention to the lighting. What is the point of having a camera, if you can’t be seen!

In the new world, online meetings will become the norm, face-to-face meetings will diminish. So we must all get better at being online and thinking about what others can see behind us, ensuring that we are happy to share that information. But when in doubt, keep it simple and use a pale wall to frame your background, you are the star, not your kitchen!


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