In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to make widespread use of a variety of video chat apps. They have enabled us to connect face-to-face with our friends and families and to attend classes, work meetings, and even job interviews without leaving our homes. These apps are great for staying in touch, but are they secure?
We are living in the information age, and hackers and cybercriminals are well aware of the amount of personal data we share through video chats. That’s why privacy should be a concern whenever you install an app on our device. Nobody wants to be spied on or see their personal data fall into the wrong hands.
In today’s article, we’re going to talk about security in video chat apps. We’ll analyze the most popular ones to identify vulnerabilities and give you some tips to prevent unpleasant experiences.
Are video chat apps secure?
Like any app, or even the operating system on your device, video chat apps are not 100% secure. We don’t mean to say they are potentially dangerous, but they can have security holes and vulnerabilities that could be used for malicious purposes. You have probably heard of the notorious case in which Zoom was accused of leaking personal data to Facebook, including the data of users who didn’t have an account on the social media platform. Another case was far worse, also involving Zoom, and it concerned a vulnerability in its UNC links that allowed hackers to steal their victims’ Windows credentials.
Although these two examples concern Zoom, many other video chat apps have been found to have similar problems. Does that mean you should stop using them? No, but it does mean you need to choose your video chat app carefully instead of blindly following the trends. Always do your research before installing an app that could compromise your privacy and that of your data.
What problems could I have if I use an unsecure video chat app?
As we mentioned, most video chat apps have security holes that can cause a headache or two. Here are some of the typical problems that can be caused by these vulnerabilities:
- They can undermine your privacy and that of your data– Some video chat apps don’t encrypt the data you share, which means hackers can hear whatever you say or access any files you share. They can even distort the message you are transmitting.
- They can change the access to your video chat– Security holes often prevent you from controlling who can access your conversation or meeting. That’s why there have been so many cases of online trolls “bombing” video conferences and even taking over calls that are underway.
- They can create fake problems with your computer– Another security hole makes it seem like you’re having problems with your PC’s microphone or camera, and as a result, you inadvertently hand over control of them to third parties.
- They can take control of your PC– In the worst-case scenario, hackers can use vulnerabilities in video chat apps to gain full access to your computer. Fortunately, these problems are less common, and the vast majority of video chat apps are immune to them.
How can I protect myself during a video chat?
Before you have a video chat, it’s important to take a few simple steps to ensure your cybersecurity. That way, you’ll protect your privacy and data and enjoy your video chats with total peace of mind.
- Make sure your video chat app is up-to-date– As we stated above, video chat apps have vulnerabilities that are repaired every time these apps are updated. Regardless of whether you use a mobile or a desktop app, make sure it is always the latest version.
- Always protect your meetings with a password– If you are hosting an online work meeting or conference, never forget to add a password and activate a waiting room. That way, you can make sure that the only participants in your meeting are invited guests.
- Switch off your guests’ microphones and cameras– In addition to the above, if you’re going to give a chat, don’t forget to mute the microphones and switch off the cameras of your guests.
- Beware of uninvited guests– If you are hosting a work meeting, do a headcount to make sure that you have no unwanted visitors. This is frequent at large conferences: it seems like someone who’s not supposed to be there always manages to sneak in.
- Be mindful of who you’re chatting with– Never share sensitive information with someone you don’t know or trust 100%.
- Don’t video chat with strangers– Never accept a video chat invitation from someone you don’t know, and avoid using features available on some apps such as random video chat.
- Don’t click on any links you receive– As a general rule, you should never click on any links you are sent during a chat. They could redirect you to a malicious website that uses the security holes in your video chat app to gain access to your computer.
- Activate two-step verification– If the app you’re using has two-step verification, activate it. This makes it harder for hackers to gain access to your accounts.
- Never make video calls on open Wi-Fi networks– Avoid using public or open Wi-Fi networks, because you run the risk of hackers intercepting your conversations.
Are the most popular video chat apps secure?
WhatsApp is one of the world’s most popular messaging apps for texts, phone calls, and video chats. One might think that since it now belongs to Facebook, it might not be secure. However, all chats, voice messages, and video chats on WhatsApp are 100% encrypted, so only you and the person on the other end of the line can access their content. In fact, the company can’t even access your content. WhatsApp uses the Signal Protocol system from Open Whisper, one of the best in the world, for encryption. WhatsApp is therefore a secure app for video conferencing. If you’re interested, you can download it below.
- WhatsApp for Android
- WhatsApp for iOS
Zoom has been the star app of the COVID-19 confinement season. It has allowed families separated by the pandemic to stay in touch and students to attend classes from home. However, it’s not an airtight app. In fact, Zoom has been at the center of multiple security-related scandals in recent months. Fortunately, the company has been updating the app systematically and fixing each vulnerability detected, although it’s likely that some have yet to be identified. That’s why if you use Zoom, it’s a good idea to take the security steps above.
- Zoom for PC
- Zoom for Android
- Zoom for iOS
Messenger is Facebook’s messaging and chat app. You can use it to chat with friends on the social media platform or on the convenient mobile app. Although Messenger wasn’t a very secure app in the past, it has since gained a number of features that protect your privacy. Among them are Secret Conversations, which are 100% encrypted in a similar way to WhatsApp. Therefore, when configured correctly, Messenger is a relatively secure app.
- Messenger for PC
- Messenger for Android
- Messenger for iOS
Google Duo is the perfect app for video chat fans who are concerned about privacy. It encrypts calls by default, so only the person you’re chatting with can see or hear you. In addition, the app is optimized to run smoothly regardless of the kind of connection you are using. Google Duo is therefore one of the best apps to guarantee privacy in your video chats.
- Google Duo for Android
- Google Duo for iOS
Snapchat is one of the most popular apps for young people and teens all over the world. Users of this social media platform can share all kinds of multimedia content and have video chats. Among its biggest attractions are its many filters and fun effects that can be added to these video chats. Although videoconferences on Snapchat are said to be encrypted, they rely on symmetric key encryption within the app itself. This makes them very vulnerable to potential hacker attacks. If you want to have a confidential video call, it’s best to avoid Snapchat.
- Snapchat for Android
- Snapchat for iOS
We hope our article has helped you to protect your video chats. Do you use any apps that we didn’t include on our list? Tell us about them in the comments section!