Securing collaborations in the digital domain

Ramzi Itani, vice president – Barco MEA discusses the rising threats and consequences of cyberattacks, especially in the time of this pandemic, and also discusses top three recommendations to prevent such attacks

Barco, Collaboration, Security, COVID-19, Coronavirus

Collaboration is key to getting things done effectively in the 21st century workplace. Working in synergy often inspires great ideas and outcomes. Lately, with the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the boundaries of how and where we work have blurred and expanded considerably, with digital transformation within organisations allowing for greater flexibility and seamless collaboration. Yet, this comes at the expense of increased threats of cyberattacks to the company’s data and intelligence.

As businesses globally move their services to the cloud to communicate, share, operate and collaborate with greater agility, cyberattacks have become an increasingly daunting reality they need to prepare and safeguard against.

A 2019 report by UAE-based cybersecurity firm DarkMatter, shows that cyberattacks in the Middle East, especially in the UAE, are on the rise. Most attacks come in the form of phishing emails that have been rampant since early 2019.

Interestingly, the UAE's federal entities have recorded an 11% rise in cyberattack attempts in March this year as the world witnesses rising numbers of COVID-19. Global reports have indicated a connection between the surge in cyberattacks and the growing severity of the pandemic globally, including the World Health Organisation, and other healthcare and charitable organisations.

IT systems are becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyber-crime as security threats proliferate, and corporations are beginning to realise the urgent need to put in place stringent security mechanisms. Yet the onus of ensuring a safe digital workplace and secure collaboration does not rest with the IT department alone. Maintaining good personal ‘cyber hygiene’ when working or meeting online is equally everyone’s responsibility.

As a digital collaboration professional, I am often asked how companies can ensure better and safer remote collaboration. Here are my top three recommendations:

  1. Establish guidelines for secure connectivity that goes beyond hardware and software – Companies need to empower their employees to always beware of cyber threats and adhere to best practices. First and foremost, this includes opting for a safe network – especially as remote workers rely on mobile devices and unsecured wireless networks – and creating strong passwords. While these may seem basic, it is surprising how many companies overlook these simple safety principles, which can easily lead to a data breach. It is important to provide education and training to employees – both technical and non-technical staff – on security protocols and how they can improve security in their daily tasks.
  2. Choose a secure conferencing system – Operating on unsecure networks without a secure conferencing system exposes companies and makes them increasingly vulnerable to cyber-attackers. Furthermore, what many companies don’t realise is that by compromising on the platform they choose, they not only risk their data but also settle for poor productivity. The right conferencing system can allow for better, more hassle-free collaboration in a safe and secure environment. At Barco, we have obtained an ISO for our ClickShare product for this very reason. As part of the certification, we undertook a comprehensive audit of our ClickShare product, ensuring that all security controls had been implemented based on an extensive risk assessment. The advancements of today’s systems have made possible a remote working environment that is wireless, flexible and adaptable, all while being highly secure. A secure system is one that offers multiple in-built layers of security to control the impact of a breach. If one line of defence is compromised, there are other layers that will be able to withstand the threat.
  3. Update your software regularly – I encourage companies to ensure that their collaboration platforms are regularly maintained and updated with the latest features so that their employees can meet and collaborate safely in a virtual environment. Using outdated systems increases the risk of sensitive and confidential data exchange leaks over virtual conferences and meetings, particularly due to the increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks taking place today.

Companies will always have to fight security issues. This is not a one-time battle, especially as our digital dependence is only set to grow as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues. To ensure that companies stay ahead of the curve, I encourage them to think of security as a long-term investment and continuous area of improvement. They need to consider solutions that are adaptable and constantly evolving to prioritise security at all times and under any circumstances – more so than ever in these challenging and ever-changing times.

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