How Beacon Can Improve Video Conferencing Security

Safety in Encryption?

Key Takeaways

  • New video conferencing software Beacon uses end-to-end encryption and other features to enhance security.
  • Insecure video communications are a growing problem as more people work from home, analyst says. 
  • Zoom is also planning to offer end-to-end encryption to more of its users.
Group of business people seen on a laptop screen having an online meeting.
Luis Alvarez / Getty Images

Zoom bombings could be a thing of the past if new video conferencing software lives up to its claims. 

Video conferencing software Beacon uses end-to-end encryption and a host of other features to enhance security. The software is being released as privacy concerns mount over breaches in popular conferencing platforms like Zoom and Google Meet. The market for video conferencing is booming as the coronavirus pandemic pushes more people to work from home than ever before. 

“The issue is that most of the conference software out there like Zoom wasn't built for COVID.”

“I don’t know why the details of your life are [anyone’s business],” said Angel Munoz, CEO of Mass Luminosity, the company set to release Beacon next month, in a phone interview. “I think it would be better for all of us if we all had some privacy.” 

Zoom Bombings a Growing Threat

Insecure video communications are a growing problem, said Avani Desai, president of Schellman & Company, a security and privacy compliance assessment firm, in a phone interview. Zoom bombings, in which uninvited users crash online meetings and sometimes post inappropriate content, have occurred widely and has forced some companies and school districts to ban Zoom

“The issue is that most of the conference software out there like Zoom wasn't built for COVID,” Desai said. “When they started opening up the software so families could have happy hours, they had to make it easy to use. So the default settings are not the ones that offer the highest levels of security and are a little trickier to navigate.”

Charles Henderson, the Global Head of IBM's X-Force Red, wrote recently that his company has seen a major uptick in requests for assessments of video conferencing security. 

“Over my 20-plus years in the industry, I’ve seen multiple attacks emerge that are extremely clever uses of new vulnerabilities, but the most effective ones are typically far simpler—for better or for worse,” wrote Henderson. “The potential for video conferencing platforms to expose sensitive information for the taking is an eye-opener.”

Implementing Encryption

In response to security threats, Zoom is also planning to offer end-to-end encryption for more of its users. The company said in a statement on its website that it has “identified a path forward that balances the legitimate right of all users to privacy and the safety of users on our platform.”

Video call from home during lockdown
Alistair Berg / Getty Images 

Beacon’s creators say the software can prevent the security breaches that have plagued competitors like Zoom. It will offer “true peer-to-peer” encryption” for all users, Munoz said. Beacon will also offer the ability to use biometrics such as thumb or facial recognition to authenticate users; there will be a security indicator to prevent choosing a password that's been previously leaked to the dark web; decryption keys are provided only to those in the call and are erased once a call is completed.

Users will also be able to see the encryption in real-time through a button located on the screen. Munoz said the company is almost certainly going to release its proprietary code so researchers can examine it for vulnerabilities.

Promo image for Mass Luminosity's Beacon
Mass Luminosity

The end-to-end encryption offered in Beacon could help increase security for users, Desai said, adding “It’s very difficult for someone to hijack the call, and if it’s the default setting that’s cool.” 

In addition to enhanced security features, Beacon provides high-quality video and audio that beats competitors, Munoz added. It also boasts other technological tricks, such as real-time transcriptions and the ability to drag and drop files. After Beacon launches for browsers, Mass Luminosity will release Beacon apps—first on Android, then Windows, then iOS and macOS.

Security vs. Convenience

Security features won’t help if they’re too tricky to use, Desai said, adding that conferencing software needs to find a balance between security and convenience. The higher processing power needed for extra encryption can cause video calls to “freeze up,” she said. 

If companies like Mass Luminosity can offer reliable and easy to use conferencing software, the market potential is huge. 

“As we hear of more and more organizations working from home into 2021 or permanently, this is going to be our new way of doing things,” said Desai. “It becomes even more important we see more people using things like telemedicine where you have protected health information and other vitally important personal information.”