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How to Keep Your Online Event Secure

Updated

Protect your event from attacks, competitors and trolls with these best practices.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread virtual events has come a rise in cybersecurity concerns for companies and their online events. Zohar Pinhasi, a cyber counter-terrorism expert and founder of the cybersecurity firm MonsterCloud, reports that ransomware attacks are up 800 percent during the pandemic. The virtual setting also makes it much easier for your company's competitors and/or unwanted trolls to enter your virtual event and access potentially confidential information.

This has enormous implications for companies hosting virtual events—and handling the personal information, payments and data of thousands of attendees on servers more vulnerable to ransomware attacks and theft by competitors than ever.

Since technology is constantly evolving, there’s no perfect solution. But through some simple proactive steps, you can protect yourself and your attendees from many common threats. 

Take these cybersecurity measures to safeguard yourself, your company and your attendees to make your virtual event a success. 

Keep Yourself Secure

No, you’re not the only one who can stop data breaches. But as the host, you and your digital presence are the gateway to every process, spreadsheet and person behind your event—from your vendors’ information to your attendees’ payments and emails, etc.

And if your email is compromised, the intruder can request password changes on each of those event-related accounts, then obtain all of your contacts, change your billing, etc. 

Before you start collecting information, strengthen your own cybersecurity with these fixes:

  1. Use an internet security suite like Norton or McAfee, which provides real-time protection against emerging malware. 
  2. As you start using event-related softwares and sites, make sure you’re using different, difficult passwords. Use a password manager like Lastpass to randomly generate new complex, hard-to-guess passwords for each one. 
  3. Many intruders penetrate your system through security vulnerabilities in your WiFi network. If your WiFi network is named after its manufacturer by default (i.e. “Linksys” or “Netgear”) attackers can use known glitches in those router models to breach your WiFi network. So be sure to change your network’s name and password as soon as you open the box.  
  4. Make sure you have a firewall and the correct ports are opened, which will protect you and your event-related information. 
  5. Keep your computer software updated. Intruders often gain access to your system by exploiting flaws in your software, which grow in number as your software becomes more outdated, so staying current can keep many potential threats away. Updated softwares also mean higher internet speeds—and a better virtual experience. 

Market Your Event Only To Your Target Audience

The fewer people that know about your party, the less that people will try to crash it. The same logic applies to your online events. Ensure that you’re marketing only to the people who want to hear from you by using ultra-targeted marketing tactics—think email lists, cross-promotion, sponsored social media posts. This way, you’re less likely to attract competitors, trolls and others predatory entities. 

Pick the Right Online Event Software 

For more peace of mind, pick a software with a high volume of good reviews speaking to its security. During the sales process, ask how they process and store attendee and event information, what webinar room security features are available to presenters and whether multiple people can access the event with the same URL. 

But security concerns don’t stop once your session starts. We’ve all heard about scammers sneaking into private online events and meetings, so combat those concerns upfront with your webinar software’s security settings.

So pick an online event software that offers a range of security options to limit your audience size and visibility, unwanted audience interactions and remove unwelcome participants as necessary. Some features available on BigMarker include: 

  1. Domain Allow List / Deny List - This features allows hosts to block email addresses from certain domains from registering. This is a great way to block competitors. You can also require people use their work email by blocking Gmail and Hotmail addresses, which prevents trolls from entering your event as well.
  2. Use The Waiting Room → If participants log into a BigMarker webinar before its scheduled start time, they’re placed in a waiting room until the session begins. Presenters then have the option of manually allowing attendees to enter the session, giving them another layer of control over their audience and security. 
  3. Use multiple hosts → Recruiting a co-host to monitor the crowd for any suspicious activity. This person will have the same permissions and privileges within the webinar software as the presenter, so they can remove participants without derailing the main programming. 
  4. Disable private chat with presenters → Prevent intruders from initiating spammy private chats to presenters or individuals in the audience a great BigMarker feature!
  5. Disable attendee mics, webcams and sharing settings → On BigMarker and other platforms, hosts can disable their audience’s mics, cameras and sharing settings, all of which prevent audience members from inadvertently disclosing personal information or putting others in uncomfortable situations. You can also set up BigMarker webinars so that only presenters can share mics and cameras, adding another layer of security and keeps the session on track topicwise.
  6. Remove violators → Presenters and admins can remove violators from the webinar room with the click of a button on BigMarker—and stop problems before they start.  
  7. Include paid tickets. Charging people money tends to deter cybersecurity attacks (and you can sell multi-tier tickets right within BigMarker or integrate with Zapier, Hubspot, etc.!)
  8. BigMarker functionality feature spotlight: Blocking words: You can actually block certain words from ever appearing in chat in each session. This can prevent trolls from spamming your event and keeps the event safe for attendees.
two men in suit sitting on sofa

Mind Your Integrations

Integrating your online event with your MAS, CRM and email platforms can enhance your marketing efforts and follow-up. But because they involve the transfer of your attendees’ personal information from your app to a third party, integrations can also add new security risks to your event. 

The solution isn’t to stop using integrations. But always be aware of which services have access to your attendee data, stay aware of those companies’ reviews and remove any integrations you’re no longer using.   

Stay Current on Your Encryption 

OK, so you know that your WiFi network needs password protection. But if you’re using an outdated encryption type, potential attackers can break into your systems without even needing a password. 

So as you plan your virtual event, ensure that you, your team and your software provider are using best-in-class encryption—across all standards. Currently, the gold standard is 265-bit WPA2-AES (which we use on BigMarker), but stay attuned to changes and upgrade accordingly. 

Devices are almost always encrypted by default. But before undertaking a big project, double check your devices following these steps: How to Encrypt Your WiFi Network 

On BigMarker, all data is encrypted at rest and in motion, meaning that your information is protected when it’s stored (whether it’s your phone, laptop or server) and when it’s moving between locations within or outside of your system.

Make sure your event has an secure SSL connection

Encryption is necessary, but not sufficient to fully lock down your online event. 

The next step is setting up an SSL. This encrypts data as it moves from the server to each person’s browser. It’s easier than ever to spot sites without a SSL certification—their URL starts with http instead of https, and Google marks them as unsafe. So it’s in your and your customers’ best interest to obtain an SSL before seeking registrations. 

If your webinar software doesn’t automatically provide an SSL certificate, follow these steps to get your own for free. Note: All hosts are required to register an SSL certificate before creating a domain on BigMarker. Your event’s safety is a top-priority around here.

Use Multi Factor Authentication (MFA) & Single Sign On (SSO) 

Hackers are getting better and better at breaking into one username, one password systems. Add another layer of protection by using MFA, which requires users to verify their identity via a confirmation code sent to their email or phone before accessing your virtual event website on BigMarker. 

But SSO, which lets guests log in to the event one time with a single ID and password, is the best option for the most secure events like internal company town halls. However, this usually isn’t necessary for external-facing public gatherings. 

Want to learn more about the world's most innovative companies are using online events to advance their marketing and business goals? BIgMarker's Account Executives are here to help! Contact us at sales@bigmarker.com to learn what's possible through online events.

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