5 Tips on Secure Online Collaboration During Self-Isolation

Author: 
 Updated: 
April 10, 2020
 / 5 minutes

If your team is new to the whole remote work thing and you organize these processes from scratch, consider these simple tips to secure your collaboration.

Use VPN

Configure VPN for accessing your work servers or dealing with sensitive data. 

Sure, it’s highly unlikely that hackers will attack your home Wi-Fi network, but still, without VPN, all of your work traffic is fully exposed to your internet provider and this makes sense to add an encrypted channel for it. 

VPN solutions to consider: Cisco AnyConnect, OpenConnect, Open VPN. 

Adjust security settings for Zoom 

If you use Zoom for video conferencing with your team, there’s something you need to know. Recently, thousands of personal Zoom videos have been left viewable on the Internet and that happened because people were considerably careless about securing their meetings. 

Don’t forget to protect your meeting with a password and use the waiting room feature to prevent users from joining until the host approves. Also, never share your meeting ID publicly. 

Or switch from Zoom to open-source Jitsi for more privacy

If you want to guarantee total privacy for your online meetings, consider ditching Zoom for open-source software.This is why: leaked videos were not the only vulnerability. It turned out that Zoom on Mac can hijack your camera and automatically accept video calls from any website, even after you delete the app. The developers claimed to have fixed it, but many teams lost trust and switched to open-source Jitsi Meet after this flaw was revealed.

First of all, Jitsi is open-source and here it means it’s more reliable because anyone can check its source code and find out what data it uses and whether there are serious vulnerabilities. OK, we understand not everyone is an experienced developer and a cybersecurity expert, but the good thing is that you can rely on a community of experienced developers and cybersecurity experts who actually checked. 

Also, Jitsi developers claim that their solution is private by design. This free app creates ephemeral meeting rooms that exist while the meeting is actually taking place. It does not require users to create accounts. They can enter name and email but this is purely optional and is only shared with other meeting participants. After the meeting all its data including chat will be destroyed. Jitsi meetings are also encrypted and never stored to any persistent storage. 

Use open-source file-sharing apps instead of Dropbox

Yeah, Dropbox is great, but have you tried creating your private infrastructure without having to pay for storage and putting the security of your data in someone else’s hands? If you choose to use one of the open-source alternatives, you can have more storage, more privacy and more control over your data at a far lower price or even for free. 

The most famous kids on the block are ownCloud and Nextcloud. 

ownCloud is the first open-source file-sharing platform on the market which now has 50 million users and thousands of contributors. It offers file storage, sharing and synchronization across your devices, just like Dropbox, but can be deployed on your private Linux server. ownCloud is a trustworthy and stable solution and the functionality can be enhanced with 3rd-party add-ons available on its internal marketplace. 

Nextcloud was founded by a group of ownCloud core developers and it shares the same functionality, but seems to be even more ambitious. Recently, Nextcloud Hub, their new project that includes file sharing functionality combined with pre-built 3rd party productivity apps (video conferencing, calendar, document editing), has been launched to compete directly with Office 365 and Google Docs.

Other noteworthy players on the market that you may wanna google are Seafile and Pydio Cells. They are younger but both get the job done allowing you to store your files and access them across all devices.

Note that switching to open-source file-sharing apps doesn’t necessarily mean rolling them on Linux servers. Many of them also offer SaaS services and partner with various hosting providers. Just remember private servers will always be the most secure. 

Create your own self-hosted Google Docs

Google Docs is cool, but if you don’t want your team’s docs to be monitored, it makes sense to choose a more privacy-friendly solution (remember 2017 when some users saw an error message that their private docs were violating Google’s Terms of Service).

If you need to collaborate on documents with your remote team, you can launch your own private Google Docs. Yes, your private Google Docs without actual Google Docs. For this, you’ll just need any of the file-sharing apps described above plus ONLYOFFICE editors. 

ONLYOFFICE is an open-source project creating online document, spreadsheet, and presentation editors. It uses Microsoft’s docx, xlsx, and pptx as core formats, allows private server installation and integrates with all popular open-source file-sharing apps. 

The most popular combos are ONLYOFFICE+Nextcloud and ONLYOFFICE+ownCloud, but using it together with Seafile and Pydio is also possible. With any of these combinations, you will get an awesome file-sharing platform plus great editors with quality formatting and many collaboration capabilities, like real-time co-editing, reviewing, commenting and more. 

That’s it! Take your time to adjust your privacy settings and check out the open-source software recommended above. 

Bonus tip: this may not be directly connected to collaboration, but if you want to replace Microsoft Office, try ONLYOFFICE Desktop Editors (free, good compatibility with MS Office formats) or LibreOffice (free, many features + super devoted community). 

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