Heartbleed and Video Conferencing

On April 7th the Heartbleed (CVE: 2014-0160) security vulnerability was made public along with a fix. Heartbleed represents a vunerability in the OpenSSL software that provides security for millions of web servers and services across the internet. Many governing bodies and media outlets called the vulnerability one of, if not, the worst security vulnerabilities discovered since the beginning of the internet. As a provider of visual collaboration services, many of which are driven by web services, we wanted to provide a round-up of some of the key announcements and fixes provided by our partners:

Cisco
Cisco’s security team posted the following article to their blog (OpenSSL Heartbeat Extension Vulnerability in Multiple Cisco Products) which lists all of the affected Cisco products and current plans for fixes. Of particular interest to our collaboration customers, WebEx Meetings Service, TelePresence Video Communication Service (VCS) and Expressway are already fixed. Details about the specific updates are also in the post. Also, additional investments are currently under way and the Cisco post will continue to be updated.

Polycom
Polycom posted its security bulletin (Security Advisory Relating to OpenSSL Vulnerability “Heartbleed” on Various Polycom Products) this week and it contains a list of affected Polycom products and their versions. Additionally dates of fixes or estimated fixes are also listed. Check back on Polycom’s site for additional updates.

Blue Jeans
Blue Jeans issued a statement on April 9th that their services are not affected by the vulnerability and that there is no evidence of any data compromise.

Acano
On April 10th an interview was posted with Acano Chief Security Officer Steven Johnstone covering Heartbleed and other security related concerns. In that post Acano announced it had issued a fix the day before and their solution was secure. Of particular interest are the comments about the open source nature of OpenSSL and its importance to the industry.

Pexip
Pexip provided a statement on Heartbleed as well as a fix that is included in their new Pexip Infinity V4 software that was released earlier this week.

Crestron
Crestron revealed that with the exception of 2 mobile apps, no Crestron services, products or websites have been affected. The notice discloses the details of the mobile apps here.

IVCi’s Cloud Services
IVCi’s Cloud Video Experience has been tested and none of its services are affected by the Heartbleed Vulnerability.

If you have any question about your solutions and their potential vulnerabilities continue to check the advisories posted by the respective manufacturers.

Weekly-Re-cap-Banner-NEW-BLUEWelcome to our bi-weekly recap of the week’s best articles surrounding collaboration.

Virtual conferencing is ‘an effective weight loss tool
A weight management program delivered virtually through video conferencing is an effective weight loss tool, according to a new study. Forty-seven obese men, aged between 21 and 60 years old, participated in a 12-week group weight management intervention led by a healthcare provider. Participants in the intervention group lost around nine pounds more than the men not involved in the virtual conferences.

Handling conference calls can be trickier than people think
The awkward silences. The false-starts. The odd background noise. Crying babies, barking dogs, hammer drills. For anyone who’s ever been on a conference call, you know the symptoms of a terrible conference call. This outlines a few simple pointers can help in both audio and video conferencing.

Video links to ease psychiatric services workload
Mental health patients will be treated through video-conferencing for the first time in the south-west as services experience a flood of new cases. South West Healthcare (SWH) has gained $25,000 to install telepsychiatry equipment to treat patients in the far corners of the region. SWH director of mental health services Caroline Byrne told The Standard the service was seeing increased demand “outweighing” the ability to meet it. “This will be the first time that we’re actually using video conference screens for telepsychiatry,” Ms Byrne said.

Customers gain the upper hand in video conferencing market
The “software revolution” of 2013 was the major catalyst for change within the video conferencing industry, with all major video conferencing manufacturers shifting their priorities and moving their focus from specialized hardware to systems software solutions. Many new players have also recently entered the market, bringing new approaches to the implementations of video conferencing systems. This has created serious competition, and with it the promise of many desirable and useful features for users.

4 trends shaping video collaboration in 2014
In today’s business world, with rising economic pressure and immense global competition, improved efficiency has become a crucial factor. One of the biggest advances in enterprise communication available today is the use of video collaboration. This tool is increasingly transforming workplaces, as the benefits of real-time engagement with dispersed teams take collaboration beyond a conventional office environment.

Microsoft Lync is an amazing unified communications and visual collaboration tool that continues to see major adoption across all areas of business. However, there are integration challenges with traditional endpoints and other standard-based video systems. Ray Beaulieu, Senior Director of  Network Operations and Infrastructure at Charles River Labs, talks about some of these challenges as well as gives insight on how the Acano solution helped solve these challenges.

Video conferencing is moving from a nice-to-have to an essential business tool. This is, in part, due to the ease of which video solutions have become available along with the removal of many barriers to B2B video calling. Here’s a look at a few of the most prominent obstacles and what has been or is being done to overcome them.

A User Friendly Dialing Plan:
Placing a call over video used to be a complicated process due to the lack of a universal number system. Users had to remember an IP address, often up to 12 digits with no logical sequence. Today, there is more consistency video calling standards. Advancements in technology allow organizations to assign unique video addresses to endpoints or personal video accounts. These can be formatted like an email address and can use the organization’s domain name instead of having to remember a 12 digit IP address.

A High Quality Experience:
Technology itself has improved significantly since the birth of video conferencing, creating a stronger and more consistent experience. The shift from standard definition to high definition displays and codecs has allowed video conferencing to become increasingly more realistic. This is significant since eye contact and other visual cues play a crucial role in communication, collaboration and business meetings in general.

Interoperability Between Systems:
Interoperability was traditionally one of the biggest barriers to B2B video conferencing. Existing video solutions did not connect well with each other and in many cases didn’t connect at all. This severely limited the number of individuals who could use video, thereby inhibiting the effectiveness of video conferencing. The creation of video protocol standards along with interoperability bridges has created a much larger network of users who can utilize video, which increases the value of video to businesses.

Reliable High Speed Network:
Network issues can destroy a video call; from packet loss and frozen images to completely dropping the call. Successful video meetings require a reliable, high-speed network. Unfortunately, the bandwidth necessary for a solid call used to be very pricey. Today, the cost of bandwidth is decreasing rapidly as well as becoming more widely accessible.  

Security:
Massive traffic between a private business network and the public Internet can create both real and imagined concerns. Firewalls have always played an important role in protecting internal applications and data within an organization, however, these firewalls can present many challenges for B2B video conferencing by restricting access to who can and cannot be called over video. Thankfully, firewall traversal devices along with virtual meeting rooms have made it easy to connect with external video users without compromising the security of an organization’s network.

While there are still challenges to B2B video calling, it has gotten significantly easier. Businesses are able to connect with colleagues, partners and even customers easier than ever before and with continued improvements it’s only a matter of time before video calling is as easy as picking up the telephone. 

The proliferation of desktop and mobile video solutions, along with WebRTC, has allowed participants to join a video call virtually anywhere there is an internet connection. However, a poor internet connection can destroy a video conference. Here are a few things you need to know when joining a video call over the internet:

Download Speed:
Download speed is the amount of bandwidth people have coming to their computer from the Internet. Think of a road coming toward an office; the more lanes it has the more traffic the road can handle. Similarly, the more downstream bandwidth people have the more internet traffic they can accept. For a point-to-point business quality video call it is recommended to a minimum download bandwidth of 384Kbps. For each additional call participant an additional 384Kbs is recommended. For example, a 4-way call will need 1.5Mbps + 20% for overhead. For High Resolution (HD) video conferencing, a minimum of 1Mbps (+20%) download speed is recommended.

Upload Speed:
Upload speed is the amount of bandwidth people have going from their computer to the Internet. This is the road going away from an office.  Again, the more upload bandwidth one has, the wider the road is and the more traffic people can send. The upload requirements remain the same as the download requirements regardless of the amount of participants on the call.

Latency (Delay):
Latency is the amount of time it takes for the traffic sent to reach its destination. Using the previous analogy, even if there is a wide road going to and from the office, if a car is moving slowly on the road it will take a lot longer to get where it is going. If you notice it is taking a long time for your co-worker to respond on a video call or that you are talking over each other it is most likely being caused by high latency. Latency problems are often caused by network congestion; if you experience problems try ending the video call and starting it again. It is recommended that latency be below 250ms.

Jitter:
Jitter is the time difference it takes data packets to reach their destination and is usually caused by congestion in the network. This is akin to getting off of work and hitting the evening rush hour. Due to the congestion and high volume of drivers hitting the road at the same time it may take longer to reach your final destination.  Jitter causes packets to arrive at their destination with different timing and possibly in a different order than they were sent (spoken). Some arrive faster than they should while some arrive slower than they should. Low jitter, or a few packets off causing a slight flicker or flash, can be frustrating but tolerable.  High jitter on the other hand can make video nearly impossible to use as the image can be completely distorted. It is recommended that jitter be below 30ms.

Packet Loss:
Packet loss is when one or more of the data packets fail to reach their destination and is also caused by congestion on the network. Essentially, some of the packets are dropped by network routers or switches that become congested (lost packets), or they are discarded by the jitter buffer (discarded packets). This is similar to an audio call breaking up where you miss every few words and cannot understand much of the conversation.

Test Your Network:
There are a number of ways to test your network connection both for quality as well as any firewall/security restrictions. Check out IVCi’s new Cloud Video Experience Video Network Assessment test to see how well video is expected to perform on your network. Click here to star the test.