Business communication or business messaging has boomed into a profitable and popular industry over the past decade. Of all the modern ‘crossover’ style social media business messaging apps that are ‘Discord-like’, Slack is a well-known corporate messaging software.
There are others as well, such as Google Chat, Microsoft Teams, Chanty, and RocketChat that offer business messaging solutions, but Slack leads this market. Over 12 million users are online daily via Slack, collaborating, sharing files, messaging in channels, and working. Hundreds of thousands of paying organizations also swear by the application at present.
However, it is important to understand that business messaging apps in general, just like any other software, are always prone to cybersecurity and privacy issues. This is why, in the later sections, we will be looking at the best practices for using apps like Slack safely.
A Brief Background About Business Communication Software
The creators of business messaging apps, like in the case of Slack, were on a completely different path before Slack was launched almost a decade ago. The histories of business messaging apps are similar and intertwined, where it is often the case that the creators transitioned to building these types of apps after other ventures (OpenFeint and Flickr in the case of the creators of Discord and Slack.)
As more and more applications moved to collaborative-style cloud solutions, corporate systems would soon follow in favor of traditional communications systems like email, which boosted the need for this style of the app. According to Slack themselves, using their app greatly reduces the need for emails and meetings, increasing productivity and efficiency to boot.
Adding to that, this type of software especially boomed as remote work really took over the world back in 2019 when lockdowns started to appear, and the economy had to somehow realign and survive with a remote workforce.
At the time when Slack started gaining serious traction in the mid-2015s, apps like Campfire and Hipchat were left in the dust by a trendier app with a better UX (user experience) model.
The fact that Slack used bots to boost productivity, as well as having integrated existing business tools such as GitHub, Zapier, Salesforce, and Google Drive made it all the more enticing to the corporate world as a one-click efficient solution.
How to Use Slack Safely
Another reason business messaging apps are taking off and, in the case of Slack, raking in customers and a billion dollars in profit, is due to the internet environment and efficiency purposes. Primarily, business messaging is something that consolidates data security.
An organization, for example, can both avert a dangerous cyber-attack as well as boost productivity by using these apps. Secondly, business messaging apps also remove the need to use a host of other apps such as WhatsApp or Viber, containing them in an all-in-one secure application designed for corporate use.
Since being secure online and retaining your data privacy is so important these days, we need to understand how to safely use business messaging apps and make the most out of their security systems. We also need to consider the shortcomings. Here is a concise list of things that a good messaging app must offer to the user;
- End-to-end encrypted data transmission
- The software is self-hosted by the company, not by off-premise parties
- The software runs on open source code, not closed
- Multi-factor authentication options
- DLP or Data Loss Prevention technologies
Once again, we can take Slack as a reference point. Slack, for example, is not ideal in terms of how secure it is by any stretch of the imagination. There is no such thing as an impenetrable app, and data breaches, as well as weaknesses in software, are a common thing in the IT world.
To be completely fair, most of the security issues arise from human error and can easily be avoided with some tips and a little common sense. Here are some real-world examples of business messaging app security issues;
- Access problems like not terminating access to the company Slack platform once a guest or employee is no longer required which can lead to data leaks and integrity issues with sensitive or confidential information
- Risks arising from those that have administrative privileges
- Third-party app integration risks where leaky authentication protocols can lead to catastrophic data leaks, which are better to avoid in the first place
- Software vulnerabilities can allow cybercriminals in, which has happened before
- Users have been known to post their credentials online for all to see
- The risk of joining large, public business messaging groups
In conclusion, it is important to remember that divulging sensitive information online, even on a corporate messaging app, can be prone to data and privacy breaches (even by the company supplying the software.)
This is why users must have the above scenarios in mind, as well as the following best practice recommendations; never share personal credentials online, scrutinize security policy between the organization and the business messaging app, utilize multi-factor authentication, and finally if you are an employer never underestimate the importance of training and teaching employees the art of secure business messaging.