The potential risk of screen sharing

Imagine you’re in a web conference, sharing your screen, when all of a sudden a chat window pops open because you forgot to close the app. Or worse, you forget that your screen is being shared and start typing your own chat message. Well, it happens to the best of us. It actually did just the other day, to a colleague. And it made us think.

Sharing your screen during an online conference can be very risky actually. Not only could you tick a business partner off with a chat message. At the end of a meeting, when a participant’s screen has been shared and the phone conference ends, the participant will often open his mail client before the host can end the meeting. So anybody still in the meeting could read the messages. And if undisclosed files are opened – well, you get the picture.

Users need to be aware what exactly is being shared, at all times. A Mac user sharing his screen with Citrix GoToMeeting can only show his entire screen. Sharing a single app is only possible with Windows. And it is easy to forget. Skype on the other hand – which we do not consider a web conferencing solution, but which serves for demonstration purposes – will not let you forget that someone is seeing your screen or parts of it, by marking the area in question with a red frame.

Now we don’t think web conferencing tools must necessarily go that far. But it should be easily distinguishable to anyone sharing his screen that he is doing so. So we are debating if this should weigh in as a security criteria rather than a mere usability feature.

What do you think? Is this only a minor inconvenience, or do you also regard it as a security risk?

How we evaluate security of web conferencing solutions

As little as you want someone to read your letter labeled “classified” you certainly do not want anybody to have access to a presentation you are giving on your company’s new product release via web conferencing.

So security is an important issue when it comes to online collaboration, and the question is: Are the documents and the information I share transmitted securely? We have taken this issue into account from the very beginning. After analyzing the security issue again, we found that we can shift our evaluation criteria a bit.

So far we rated the security of a web conferencing tool by looking at the software-specific security features on a higher-ranking level and then the meeting-specific security features, counting them into the overall results at a 50% – 50% ratio. As our analysis has shown, online conferencing software itself is standardly very secure. It is the meeting specific security – often adjustable to a certain degree by the meeting host – that weighs in more heavily, which is why we now adopted a 30% – 70% ratio.

To give a concrete example this means that a 128 bit SSL encoding and a meeting specific ID increases a tool's security score.

Many thanks to all the users that have expressed their concerns regarding the security of web conferencing software. We always like to hear your comments on online collaboration, so please keep ‘em coming.

BeamYourScreen makes a huge leap – from rank 18 to 6

Well done! After re-evaluating BeamYourScreen, which is now available in version 3.0, we found great improvements in ease of installation, structure, and security. The missing chat function is a big turnoff though. Still, if the overall trend is carried on with future developments, BeamYourScreen might very well find itself in our top 5 after the next evaluation.

Check out the complete test results here.

We have a new number two!

Netviewer Meet is now available in version 6.0 and has beaten WebEx Meeting Center 8.5 to the second place.

Previously the number three in our ranking, Netviewer Meet has improved its features, especially regarding security. The setup of online meetings is now also easier to handle so that the overall user experience definitely has been enhanced.

Read the detailed evaluation here.