The new normal has been with us for more than a year; digital interactions remain a part of how we do business now. So, how can a company protect its data when the safest way to meet is online?
One innovative company that was already active in the digital event space was quick to provide a solution. Modest Tree is a Canadian company that uses 3D modelling and software development to provide digital virtual training experiences through gamification, augmented reality, and simulation. Interacting with government, corporate, educational, military and finance organizations across North America and Europe meant every email, video conference, and training program had to be completely secure. Modest Tree developed Leaf to ensure the security of their interactions, then extrapolated the service for use by clients.
“Leaf is a virtual communications platform that has been purpose-built to enable enterprises, particularly those required to meet strict security protocols, with access to convenient and advanced virtual communications and file sharing that won’t compromise any of their security requirements,” explains Laura Bohnert, Director of Public Relations and Marketing for Modest Tree. “Our purpose is to leverage our secure virtual solutions to help our clients become more adaptable, so they are able to react quickly and with greater flexibility to challenges like the sudden shift to remote working conditions.”
Leaf uses end-to-end encryption. Bohnert explains why.
“End-to-end encryption is important because it helps you maintain control over who has access to the information you send. That information can only be decrypted by the user and device that have been verified and have the decryption key. This prevents anyone external from intercepting sensitive data that may be shared or discussed in a chat or on a call while still enabling that information to be easily communicated.
“Olm and megolm are cryptographic protocols (or ratchets) that ensure a conversation is secured on both ends. In combination, end-to-end encryption, the use of double-ratcheted algorithms, and unique device verification requirements ensure that, while data is at rest, it can only ever be accessed by verified participants from a verified device. There’s no way for a third party or even an administrator to decrypt the conversation without being invited. Not even the servers will be able to decrypt and understand the information, so it’s one of the best ways to guarantee that information can’t be hacked, and that it is always only traveling to the intended recipient.”
Bohnert’s advice for companies looking for secure data sharing is this, “End-to-end encryption is important, but it isn’t the only security feature companies should be looking at. Even the best encryption can’t help if you don’t know where your data is being stored. Leaf is the only communication platform on the market that can be hosted on your own secure server. When all of the internal communications that need to take place to allow your teams to collaborate effectively can happen behind your company’s own firewall, that information never has to leave your organization and you never have to compromise between maintaining your security protocols and enabling convenient communications and efficient workplace collaboration.”
Scott Channon, Director, Marketing & Communications, Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, is no stranger to the sudden shift of conducting business online. Since the Chamber works with many businesses across a variety of sectors, it needed to find a secure platform – fast. The Chamber settled on Zoom, but with some caveats.
“We were fully aware of zoombombing,” Channon explains, “so we looked to find out where those threats were coming from. After researching and understanding what Zoom was doing to enhance protocols on their end, we felt it was something we could work with.”
The Chamber also discussed with its IT team what they needed to do internally through passwords and other measures to ensure security. By following best practices, the Chamber has not had an incident thus far. Despite the sensational headlines, platforms like Zoom are safe to use as long as due diligence and protocols are followed.
“We definitely make sure that when we use either a web or meeting application, everyone is aware of how the event will be run,” says Channon. “For example, mics are on mute and we will call on you if you have a question. There is a Q&A box. We have constant monitoring during events on the back end. If an incident were to happen, we can address it swiftly in real time. People are comfortable with the level and consistency of how we’re operating online.”
Digital platforms like Zoom have helped the Chamber safely connect with members; and when it comes to planning secure online events, organizations have options on how to also make things fun.
Chris Baker is the General Manager of Encore Canada’s Edmonton Production Centre. Formerly known as FMAV, PSAV and its family of companies began to operate under the Encore name this past January as part of a planned move to align its portfolio of companies. It also signaled a forward focus, putting their customers at the centre as they offered new platforms and tools to enable their clients to continue to meet and connect in person and in virtual audiences.
“We’ve been creating memorable event experiences that connect and inspire, engage and transform organizations for decades,” explains Baker. “Looking at a screen is the primary way to deliver virtual experience, but we offer engagement capabilities including gamification, video networking lounges, virtual exhibit halls with private meeting rooms, polling, voting, and heat maps. Engagement tools provide audiences a way to affect the program and experiences of others and should be considered a valuable feature in planning virtual events. It also provides an avenue for sponsors to connect with their target audiences.”
Already using technology to deliver online or hybrid events, Encore was uniquely positioned to help clients succeed once COVID-19 arrived.
“COVID-19 has brought virtual solutions to the forefront of how our customers communicate with their audiences,” shares Baker. “While many customers have chosen to engage in a completely virtual activation, many also choose to draw upon our live production expertise to deliver broadcast quality virtual and hybrid experiences.
“At each of our Production Centre locations and in many of our partner venues, Presentation Stages ™ have been developed to host both virtual and hybrid events. With a Presentation Stage, our team provides a clean, safe location for you to record or broadcast your message, conduct rehearsals and ultimately deliver on our customer’s needs. We offer different levels to accommodate production requirements and comply with local or regional gathering restrictions. The demand is high for our virtual technology solutions, but in even greater demand is our production expertise in how to manage data, presentations, speaker and audience experiences.”
How does Encore ensure security during these events?
“We offer levels of security that rely on passwords and multi-factor authentication. Our in-house platform, Chime Live, can also integrate with many interactive and registration platforms to create a seamless audience experience. Often, we’ll engage video conferencing platforms to create the virtual stage, which will feed the livestream. By leveraging a third party video conference platform to feed the broadcast, we add another level of security through moderation and segmentation before any data is broadcast.”
Baker advises, “The best practice for event planners is to conduct a basic security audit of a prospective vendors’ systems by asking a few simple questions: How is data protected in transit and at rest? How is data destroyed post event? How is data protected and backed up while systems are active? Are systems in house, or third party? If necessary, engage a trusted third party consultant to help with audit questions and validate responses. Encore systems are built with certification protocols and processes in place. Encrypted transit and storage solutions are utilized in every process, including data collection and distribution to attendees. Documented and audited processes are followed through out the event life cycle.”
Despite a rocky start for many companies that had to quickly adapt to meetings, events, and working from home online, there are a variety of innovative solutions, and solution providers, to ensure those interactions are safe, effective, and engaging.