Video Conferencing shows us very well the conflict between low user friction and high security.

8th July 2020

By Neil Downing, VP of Products at TMT Analysis.

It’s always great to read of businesses doing well at this time of severe global uncertainty, and few of us can be unaware of the stratospheric growth; almost out of nowhere; of video conferencing and screen-sharing platforms such as Zoom and others. Equally, most of us are aware of some of the media storm that has enveloped video conferencing companies and some of their security protocols (or lack of them).

Issues have emerged around the fact that many video platforms are not encrypted end-to-end, around the ability of users who are not in your organisation but in the same email domain (such as with the same Internet Service Provider) to see your content, and you may even have fallen victim to ‘videobombing’ where an uninvited guest appears without warning in the middle of your meeting!

The interesting thing about all of this is that many of these ‘features’ are unintended consequences of the very noble philosophy of the new breed of video conferencing companies who aim to remove friction from the user experience of joining a conference. Experiences with the likes of WebEx taught them that there was a lot to do to stop the 10-plus frustrating minutes trying to get everyone on; and in many cases they succeeded, Zoom and others are now regarded as having the best User Experience (UX).

But, removing steps from the authentication process potentially exposes you to issues, which you don’t have with a video conferencing platform that needs your name, organisation, email address, location, PIN number, and shoe size before it will allow you access.

In a statement apologising for some of rent issues, Eric Yuan the CEO of Zoom, said ‘intentions were good’ leading many including myself to conclude that some of these features were not unintended consequences, but calculated risks in the eternal trade off between UX friction and security.

So, what has this got to do with us here at TMT Analysis?

This trade-off is one that we know all too well from our work developing our mobile number authentication and verification product, TMT Verify. The customers that we are actively working with are constantly trying to perform the same high-wire act, because doing a million security checks before each transaction goes some way to reduce fraud, but often annoys users at the same time.

Our TMT Verify platform allows businesses to perform authentication and verification checks, in the background and behind the scenes, whilst the customer is making their requests. Our aim is to use the mobile number intelligence we hold to quickly verify that you are still the person you say you are, only adding that friction back into the process if something with your mobile identity has changed. As a practical example this means when you change your phone every 2-3 years you’ll experience higher friction for your first transaction, but then revert to low friction for the next 24-36 months until something changes again.

Despite some bad press perhaps Zoom and others are on the right track, removing as much friction as possible has got to be the way to go for any organisation that wants mass adoption. But, there is no reason why you can’t take the same approach to security, plan everything and make every decision that you take about having the lowest possible friction in your authentication and verification processes, and perhaps you can achieve even more dramatic results.

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