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January 30, 2014

Is WebRTC Safe From Security Threats?

By now, most businesses have heard of WebRTC. For those who haven't, WebRTC is a revolutionary new concept for unified video and voice communications, able to translate all types of voice and video data into a single compatible format. This makes it possible for companies with different video conferencing technology to communicate face-to-face with one another.

One reason that WebRTC is so popular is because it is available for free on any Web browser, without the need to download any software. This grants access to the technology for companies both large and small, giving a powerful edge to companies that eschewed video-conferencing due to a high price-point. However, it is this exact feature that also has some businesses worried about Internet security, and the possibility that hackers could use the video client to listen in on conferences or gain access to private networks.

Michael Brandenburg, an industry analyst for Frost & Sullivan, recognizes both aspects of WebRTC. According to him, “WebRTC is the logical next step for communications on the Internet, but it could open the door for both good and bad applications... As soon as users are able to click Web links and agree to that communication, [WebRTC] is potentially exposing the internal network if enterprises aren't prepared from a security standpoint.”

To combat this, WebRTC has already taken several security measures, such as encrypting the data as it travels between users. The browsers will also ask users to verify that a website wants access to their cameras and microphones, but exploits like the one found in Google Chrome could turn these security features on their heads.

Companies that prefer to use specific video-conferencing software like Skype will see an overall drop in potential security problems, since the video network is more exclusive. However, as with any Web technology it is only a matter of time before hackers are able to find a way into the system, so the overall risk remains about the same.

Ultimately, it will come down to companies asking how important compatibility is against security. For some, maintaining secure networks is worth the extra effort and limitations of specific software. For others, WebRTC is too valuable of a tool to pass up. Even though the fear exists that security breaches could occur, they would have to be willing to put faith in WebRTC's built-in countermeasures.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson
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