Working remotely has become the preferred technique of many businesses as they pivot to serving clients and customers in the age of COVID-19. Moving to a hybrid work environment with some employees working from home while others continue working out of the office poses challenges on manager’s abilities to lead a team and a company’s technology infrastructure.
But there are more sinister forces at work too. In an age of Black Lives Matter (BLM), employees of colour are being disproportionately targeted by cyber-attackers, neo-Fascists, and white supremacists. Without the protection of a physical office environment with: access controls on the front door; receptionists to screen and vet calls and visitors; and the scrutiny of colleagues and managers to monitor and curb racist, sexist, and vulgar behaviour; customers and employees from minority groups are at a greater risk of discrimination and danger.
Al Jazeera reports that employers are unprepared to protect employees who need to deal with hate speech from customers and co-workers in this new reality. According to Al Jazeera, video conferencing using Zoom is one of the key methods used by hate advocates to target people from ethnic minorities and LGBT+ groups. With over 300 million daily meetings, methods to hack Zoom meetings are being sold on the Dark Web for up to $500,000. Threads uncovered by Al Jazeera on 4chan, a website used extensively by white supremacists, documented plans to hijack a Ramadan virtual dinner, church gatherings, as well as lectures and work calls. The goal of all these threats is to intimidate and dominate attendees in environments where they expect to be affirmed or to feel safe in exposing their vulnerabilities to their families, friends, faith communities, and colleagues.
Employers and employees all have a responsibility to create a safe work space for their employees and their co-workers. This is harder when working in a hybrid work environment, and this concern needs to extend beyond Zoom and virtual meetings. Because we think of our home as our sanctuary, having a hate-advocate find out where an employee lives can be much more devastating that find out where that employee works.
Here are some tips to protect your employees and customers–and minimize the impact should they be attacked:
- Virtual meeting hosts should confirm actual attendees against the list of invitees at the start of the meeting. People who are not on the list should be asked who invited them and why they are there.
- Use security best practices: attach a password to every meeting; send out meeting passwords as late as possible but still in time for everyone to receive them before the meeting; maintain control of the meeting by muting non-speakers and not allowing screen sharing for everyone.
- Employers should create a protocol should a virtual meeting ever be Zoom bombed. The moderator or host should immediately terminate the meeting and all participants should understand how and when the meeting will be rebooked.
- Don’t publish employee’s personal phone numbers, home addresses, or names or pictures of family members in any company directory.
- Lock down your social media accounts so that only your friends can see your pictures, or pictures of your friends or colleagues. Remove or block any pictures of your house or other identifying information as to where you live.
- Only link or tag colleagues and customers–particularly those who belong to ethnic minorities or LGBT+ communities–in your social media posts with their permission.
- Do not expect your employees to use their personal cell phones or home numbers for work purposes. Even asking them to use the “Block Number” feature on their cell phone (*67) is likely to fail since it is not an ingrained habit for the employee and many of your customers will not respond to a call from a blocked number. Consider moving to a VoIP system that allows employees to either have a work extension at home, or a work extension as a smart phone app. If your existing phone provider cannot accommodate this, look at moving to one that can.
- Rather than passing out employee’s extension numbers to your general public or new customers, consider using a “Digital Receptionist” service or a call centre to screen calls and route them directly to employees. Direct lines to employees should be reserved for trusted team members and customers who need and respect the right to contact employees directly.