Knowledge base

July 31, 2021

Using WhatsApp and Messenger for business communication is a big risk

An analysis of the security concerns about popular communication platforms and advice on how to prevent unwanted leaks of valuable company information.

Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp
  • The amount of data sent through instant messaging platforms has more than doubled over the course of the pandemic.
  • The first lockdown in spring 2020 led to 50% more data transmission over the internet, while external devices were preferred pre-COVID. There was also a big jump in the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021, when the intensity of online communication increased by a further 30%.
  • Team communication platforms, such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, have seen a massive boom, as have private instant messaging platforms.
  • This trend has its drawbacks, especially for businesses and the security of their data.

There are many private communication platforms and employees often use their favorite instant messenger for work. This phenomenon is called ‘Bring Your Own Service’. However, this poses significant new threats, both technical and legal. It is possible to significantly reduce the risk of transmitting internal data if managers avoid basic mistakes and enforce appropriate human resources policies thoroughly.

Personal and work communication do not mix!

In the past, the main security risks were private email and data storage. Today they are private chat and cloud. Virtually everyone uses corporate emails and the new threat is the mixing of private and corporate communications. While it’s quite common for an employee to lose a flash drive containing internal data or have their company laptop stolen, it’s even more common for them to use private email, insecure cloud storage, or an instant messenger for work purposes.

This kind of communication and data transmission is convenient and has obvious advantages. Therefore, companies should not try to ban it, but face it. From a data security point of view, companies should choose suitable and easy-to-use tools and ensure that they are used for business communication and data transfer. This way, employees don’t have to take shortcuts and use Messenger, WhatsApp and other popular instant messaging platforms. However, any tool can be misused, including B2B communication tools. Pay attention to setting rules and training employees.

How do I keep control over company data?

When selecting the means of communication you want to use in your company, it is important to check whether the data is stored permanently. If it is permanently accessible everywhere, you will lose control over it and run the risk of leakage. It is essential to select B2B tools that allow you to manage access and connectivity. And just like with your corporate cloud, strong two-factor authentication is essential.

I would ideally avoid all instant messaging applications for private day to day communication that we use to chat with friends and family. These applications belong on private smartphones, not company laptops. The main exception is communicating with customers through corporate social media accounts. However, it is still necessary to set up two-factor authentication and use appropriate tools to secure company data to prevent important information from leaking.

Almost every platform has had security vulnerabilities.

Virtually every communication platform, from Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to Microsoft Teams and Zoom, has recently faced security vulnerabilities. It pays to use a service that addresses these issues directly. A helpful tip is the service’s willingness to inform users about these issues and the time it takes to resolve them. When the repair takes a long time, there is a greater chance that the flaw will be exploited by external actors. Once information about a potential vulnerability becomes public, many hackers/crackers try to exploit it, especially from Russia and China. That is why it is important to look closely at the history of the services and to evaluate how flexible and fast they can respond.

The volume of data transferred will continue to grow

In addition to preventing data leaks, it is also good to make plans for the future. The active usage time of communication platforms has doubled over the course of the pandemic and will certainly continue. The same goes for the use of video calls and general internet traffic.

Secure business communication and data sharing are complex issues that require a responsible approach from both management and employees. There is no point in trying to fight the trends. It is better to understand them early, establish appropriate rules, monitor potential threats and prepare scenarios to minimize current and future challenges. You can ask your employees which tools they like to use and why, and then offer them a similar but more secure alternative. It is also a good reason for you to switch platforms.

Source: safetica

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