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.

Efficiency. Effectiveness. Productivity. These are staples in any business professional’s life along with any corporation or organization and increasing any of these allows people to accomplish more goals in less time. The benefits are enormous for organizations; from lowering costs to increasing sales, customer service and employee satisfaction.

There are always tips and tricks for increasing productivity; in fact a recent article from the Huffington Post discussed 12 habits of productive people which included breaking the chain to email and having a system for getting everything done. But how can organizations as a whole become for efficient? Well, here are our top four habits of highly productive organizations:

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Welcome to our bi-weekly recap of the week’s best articles surrounding collaboration. 

Benefits of video conferencing include less travel, but it’s not No. 1
For decades, enterprises have turned to video conferencing in large part as a means of reducing business travel expenses. However, a recent survey by Wainhouse Research of 4,700 end users of video conferencing found that the incentives for using video are shifting: 94% noted that the biggest benefit was increased efficiency and productivity; 88% cited increased impact of discussions; and 87% said video expedited decision-making — the same percentage who said it reduced travel.

Telework Week Saved Feds 14 Million Miles, $13 Million
This year’s Telework Week, which ran March 3-7, drew 163,973 pledges, more than four times the 2011 number. The average Telework Week participant teleworked two days during the week, avoided a 45-mile round-trip commute into the office and saved 4.5 hours and $90 in commuting costs for the week. Nearly all (94 percent) pledges came from the federal government, enabling federal employees to save a collective $13 million in commuting costs, avoid 14 million miles of travel and gain back more than 716,000 hours.

Concierge healthcare services via video – a concept on the rise
Although not a new concept, concierge healthcare services used to be a luxury that only a certain percentage of Americans could possibly afford. Changes in the healthcare system and economic drivers may be changing that. Under this model, doctors essentially work under retainer, being paid monthly fees to offer healthcare services to a patient or family. Healthcare practices operating in a concierge healthcare model could utilize telemedicine solutions to conduct many of their house calls and appointments. This diminishes the travel element and enables medical professionals to see just as many, if not more, patients each day. Telemedicine can also allow doctors to cast a much wider net for their patients.

Mobility Tops the List of Digital Priorities
If you thought either big data analytics or cloud computing initiatives rank at the top of today’s digital agenda, guess again. Mobility strategies hold a clear edge, according to a recent survey from Accenture. The resulting report, “Mobility: Fueling the Digital Surge,” demonstrates how much further ahead “mobility leader” organizations are on their progress toward these goals, compared to the rest of the field. And while the required commitment here is clearly evident at the very highest levels of organizational leadership, there are still many obstacles that CIOs must overcome.

Get ready for new ATM’s
Recently, more and more banks are starting to equip their ATM’s with technological upgrades, one of those being video conferencing. Banks are working on technology tools to give customers new, faster ways to interact with their branches. ATMs with touch screens will soon work with our smartphones. New apps will help zip cash to you as quickly as you can snap a picture. Videoconferencing with representatives in call centers lets banks extend hours for basic services and screen tellers can handle about 95 percent of typical bank transactions. This allows both customers and banks to increase productivity and efficiency when handling transactions and consultations.

WebRTC - Hype or the Real Deal?

For those who have been watching the collaboration industry closely it is hard to not see a multitude of articles and announcements that discuss WebRTC and the latest product to feature the technology. We have blogged extensively about WebRTC in the past but, in short, WebRTC is a web browser standard that enables real-time audio and video directly in the browser without the need for plugins. The standard is still being developed and has not been completely “ratified” by the governing bodies that ensure web based standards are, well, standard. Browser support is not universal (Chrome, Firefox & Opera support it; Safari, Internet Explorer and others do not). With these limitations in mind, let’s explore what WebRTC can actually enable.

Immediate Access
In the past, joining a rich media experience within your browser would require that a plugin was downloaded. In many cases this is still required; think of web conferencing solutions like WebEx or GoToMeeting. With WebRTC, a developer can utilize the native browser to achieve much of the functionality that their plugin provides. In the case of Cisco, they recently announced WebEx compatibility with Google Chromebooks and that compatibility is being achieved by rebuilding WebEx as a WebRTC native application. Now a user simply clicks a link and they are in the meeting instantly.

Video Enabled Business Processes
Much of our work on a daily basis happens inside specific business applications such as CRMs, EHRs, or other custom designed solutions. Since WebRTC is web based, it is much easier to embed web assets into an application and allow video communication to happen right in the system workers use every day. From a healthcare perspective, many doctors and physicians live in their hospital’s Electronic Health Records system. With WebRTC enabled assets, a doctor, nurse, or other employee could be reviewing a patient’s records and immediately initiative a video call on that screen. They would continue to review the data and be able to collaborate with each other in real time, without leaving the application. The productivity gains can be enormous!

Reduce Security Concerns
Many organizations choose to lock down user computer systems from the installation of applications and other components to reduce the risk of malware and viruses. Only when IT is involved can an application be involved. This lock down, while good for security, can be bad for productivity. If a user wants to join a media rich session they would needed to request IT to install a needed plugin. With WebRTC, that employee can utilize the native browser they use every day to join these sessions without having to wait for IT to set-up the application.

Extended Reach
A critical component of collaboration technology is the ability to bring anyone, from anywhere into a meeting without a heavy burden. Previously connecting to a partner or a customer over video required the installation of proprietary software and some finagling of firewall settings, etc. With WebRTC enabled solutions, users simply receive a link to the meeting and they can join instantly. With the case of many solutions out there these links can connect users into sessions that also feature users connected with unified communications solutions (Lync, Jabber) and standard video conferencing systems (Cisco, Polycom, Lifesize).

The use cases for WebRTC are significant and the technology is already opening new doors. While the standard still has a way to go with both ratification and browser support, I feel strongly that WebRTC is here to stay and certainly worth of the hype it has created!

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.