Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Secret no more: Closed-door meetings, trashy news Fridays get high-tech visibility

Here's even more reason for communications directors to make friends with their information technology teams: Your organization or company's closed-door boardroom meetings may be vulnerable to hacking through the videoconferencing system, and reporters on Twitter are starting to call out groups that put out stinky news late on Fridays. Here's what you need to know:

Take out the trash Fridays gets a hashtag

One clever use to which Twitter is being put: Calling out organizations, agencies and corporations who use the tactic of "taking out the trash" on Friday afternoons, by releasing stinky news stories late on a day when they're likely to get little attention in the Saturday press.

Used only a few times so far, the Twitter hashtag #tottf (Take Out the Trash Friday) is one way reporters and others can share stories or practices that fit the bill. "Take Out the Trash Friday" hails from the television series The West Wing, and even gets its own page on Wikipedia so you can come up to speed. While the focus there is on the White House, many organizations have used this tactic over the years--and I think the hashtag may have the neat result of nipping that in the bud, eventually, since it's an idea we should have trashed some time ago. Let's put "Take Out the Trash Fridays" on our resolution list for change and reform, shall we?

Videoconferencing hackers may see inside your boardroom

If you've got videoconferencing capabilities in your meeting rooms and boardrooms, take this New York Times article on how easily videoconferencing rooms can be hacked right to your IT director and facilities managers.

The chief security officer at a Boston-based cybersecurity company "...has found it easy to get into several top venture capital and law firms, pharmaceutical and oil companies and courtrooms across the country. He even found a path into the Goldman Sachs boardroom. 'The entry bar has fallen to the floor,' said Mike Tuchen, chief executive of Rapid7. 'These are literally some of the world’s most important boardrooms — this is where their most critical meetings take place — and there could be silent attendees in all of them.'

How prevalent is this problem? The company's security officer scanned 3 percent of the Internet and found "5,000 wide-open conference rooms at law firms, pharmaceutical companies, oil refineries, universities and medical centers. He stumbled into a lawyer-inmate meeting room at a prison, an operating room at a university medical center, and a venture capital pitch meeting where a company’s financials were being projected on a screen." Setting up the system inside the firewall is one step toward blocking this vulnerability, as is getting a system with security protocols, typically more available on newer systems. The hackers can see well enough to read slides on a screen, notes on the table and certainly who's in the room. 

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