Unified Communications Tools Fuel Hybrid Work but Creates Risks

This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala, Author at eWEEK.

A new report reveals that organizations are struggling to keep up with the growth of communications platforms, especially in security and compliance issues.

Software company Theta Lake, which specializes in unified communications (UC) compliance and security, recently conducted its annual benchmark survey late last year to understand how communications platforms are being used and which issues organizations are struggling with the most.

More than 500 compliance and security professionals in financial services, healthcare, and government sectors participated in the survey. The findings were published in Theta Lake’s 2022 Modern Communications, Compliance, and Security Report.

The report uncovered that communications platforms are growing exponentially in volume, and organizations are struggling to keep up, especially when it comes to security and compliance. What follows is a summary of the report’s key findings and Theta Lake’s recommendations to help organizations address existing challenges with UC.

Unmonitored Communications Are Becoming a Problem

Two-thirds (66%) of the survey respondents said employees are using unmonitored communications channels, which pose a major risk for organizations due to regulatory scrutiny and enforcement surrounding consumer apps.

Organizations face a number of issues when recording audio and video from such apps. In fact, 39% of compliance and security professionals named gaps in coverage as one of the top three challenges of existing archiving tools.

Organizations Want Better Archiving Solutions

Nearly half (47%) of those surveyed would like to have an archiving solution that can capture all communications channels, including mobile, SMS, and messaging apps. Currently, 33% of organizations manually search communications channels.

Although most legacy tools are built for email, 81% of employees use chat, and 63% use video in the workplace, which points to the fact that compliance tools are outdated and cannot adequately capture dynamic communications data.

Chat Poses the Biggest Risk to Privacy and Security

Organizations believe that content shared in chat, including in-meeting chat, is the biggest threat to compliance, security, and privacy due to the ease of revealing confidential, sensitive, or proprietary information. The riskiest features named by the respondents are:

  • Transferring files via chat (52%).
  • Sharing links in chat or on screen (41%).
  • Screen sharing (38%).

The findings are in line with the views expressed by compliance and security professionals last year. Most concerns expressed by professionals had to do with content being hacked, leaked, or shared externally.

Video Is a Double-Edged Sword

Considering that 44% of employees now use video more than email, four out of five professionals working in financial services anticipate an increase in regulatory focus on monitoring video communications.

According to 36% of respondents from all industries, video conferencing and webcams create the greatest risks in terms of data privacy and employee misconduct. That’s because screen sharing is the most commonly used feature in collaborative settings, per 73% of the respondents.

One surprising finding revealed that the camera is the feature commonly reported as being disabled—an excessive approach organizations take to limit risk.

Organizations Deploy Multiple Communications Platforms

Today, 45% of organizations use four or more tools to communicate, all of which create compliance issues when capturing and retrieving data. Two-thirds (67%) expect usage of these tools to grow.

The tools most commonly used include Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Webex, Slack, RingCentral, and Symphony as well as mobile chat tools like WhatsApp and whiteboarding. Across all industries that were surveyed, 45% of the respondents said they’d like to see their existing archiving vendor be able to capture written communications without recording video or audio.

Record-Keeping Plays a Key Role in Compliance

Organizations are required to provide complete records to investigators, regulators, or auditors in a timely manner. The problem with having multiple communications channels is the cumbersome process of retrieving information.

The report found that 64% of organizations rely on lexicons and keyword search, while 57% still use a manual approach to capture data. Most organizations (85%) experience problems when retrieving records. As a result, they face fines and sanctions because they can’t provide comprehensive data for compliance purposes.

Deploying New Technologies to Address the Issue

Modern compliance and security tools can ensure that rich, dynamic data can be captured and retained. Therefore, 58% of the respondents are using machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), and artificial intelligence (AI).

What organizations would like to see most from archiving vendors is the capability to have all employee communications channels in a single, unified view. This is the number one compliance capability named by 50% of the respondents, which shows archiving vendors need to have a contemporary approach to compliance.

Theta Lake recommends organizations take an incremental, risk-based approach that starts with addressing gaps in areas where the risk is highest, such as SMS, WhatsApp, and other consumer messaging apps. This includes deploying AI-assisted compliance tools, which improve processes like compliance review.

Furthermore, organizations should choose compliance solutions that integrate with UC and benefit users with all features enabled, rather than using legacy approaches like disabling cameras. At the same time, when adopting UC platforms, organizations can support compliance through application programming interfaces (APIs) and integration partnerships.

It’s also important that newly implemented UC platforms and compliance capabilities are understood by employees. Training and guidance on data security, record keeping, and proper use of communications channels will ensure employees are accountable for how they use those channels in the workplace.

Author: Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.