Instant messaging versus secure communications

The communication revolution

I love the communication revolution. Instant messaging (IM) tools such as Slack, HipChat, Ryver, and WhatsApp have impacted on collaboration in the most incredible way. Communication is so much cleaner when conversations are channeled to deal with specific topics, projects, or even with specific outcomes for a single project. Teams are able to instantly deal with issues and view the history of conversations.

Project management is so much easier with decent search functions. The history of a decision tree is instantly available, what a boon compared to the inaccessible email chain. By holding meetings through IM you just got your minutes and absentees can simply and quickly catch up. Even the “instant” part of the messaging becomes a much looser concept, allowing cross-time zone interaction. Communications need not be instantaneous and time-set but allowed to evolve as stakeholders make contributions and comments.

These apps allow you to address team members privately or publically. Messaging extends to sharing of files, links and – depending on your App package, video conferencing. These incredible tools are not limited to internal communications. Most IM tools allow you to invite contractors and external teams into a channel,  instantly connecting all the stakeholders involved in a project. Slack even provides tools to protect the deep work need and the work-life balance. Giving members control over when they will receive notifications and status setting. These IM apps allow you to talk to everyone on a channel, or just those people active in the moment you need a response. With the new player Ryver now in the game, kanban task management boards are available, merging project management within your communication solution.

This sounds great, sign me up

Without a doubt, these tools are incredible, Slack even offers a free version if you are not that bothered about your chat history or admin control, WhatsApp is essentially free (although Facebook is looking at ways to plunder advertising spoils). You have probably used at least one of these tools, you are part of this revolution. So what is the down-side? One of the main players, Slack, are pretty upfront about the issue, as it is integrated into their pricing plan. Your data is held on their servers. Slack charges users on the basis of how much data they want to hold and how much of their own historical data they want access to. That’s right. You do not have the rights, or the access to all your data unless you are paying for the correct plan.

Security matters

Security Matters

When the cloud means your data on someone else’s computer, how exactly can a system administrator keep track of what is up there and how secure this data is? A traditional solution is to issue a company phone and company laptop and place strict limits on what programs may be installed and what data shared. There are plenty of players in the market that will sell you a special secure software platform. These solutions, however, tend to be expensive and bespoke. They also require that everyone hand over their devices to have the software installed.  It’s a logistical nightmare but it largely works. The typical alternative is to manage and firefight; identify specific apps or services that are safe and make it clear what you can and can’t protect if they decide to share sensitive material. Maintain a mop-up team for when the inevitable happens.

A better solution

If you care that your business is placing confidential corporate data on someone else’s servers, there is a new player in the field that put security first. Meet Wickr, a “bring your own device” messaging and collaboration platform that integrates administrative functions. Wickr provides a quick-and-easy personal download. It also provides security and control to keep your system administrators happy.

The packages

The entry-level package is a free Signal-style messaging app called Wickr Me. The step-up is Wickr Pro, providing your business with a private network on Wickr’s servers. For the most security conscious, Wickr Enterprise runs on your company’s servers. This app integrates with all phones and desktops running the major operating systems and they all communicate with one another. Cost? Pro is $25 per user, per month cost. Based on a per-user basis the Enterprise version works out cheaper.

Why pay $25 per month for Wickr when Slack is less than half that price?

• Admin controls. You can manage conversations, set your own message expiration times, archive channels, automate workflows and so on. 
• Privacy. Wickr was designed from the ground up to prevent access to user information, unlike the other IM options.
• Video conferencing. Wickr allows for secure video conferencing. Skype and Slack would have a hard time persuading customers that they are there yet.

Wickr’s baby steps

The app has had eight million downloads and currently sees one million monthly active users. With only 200 paying customers it is eager to see growth.

Wallenstrom, Wickr’s CEO, when asked about security says, “we rely on math as much as possible.” He notes: “If I can’t get access [to other people’s content], nobody can.”

Why does Wickr think people will pay a premium for increased security? Wallenstrom draws an analogy to penetration testing. “people would only do pen testing when they had had a breach.” Even then, he proposes, people would be very resistant to the idea of inviting a third party trying to break into their systems. Now, though, pen testing is a common corporate preventative practice. 

What does Wickr consider the low hanging fruit? Interestingly, the answer is political campaigns. When the security of electronic messages between team members can be a critical component, Wickr is positioning itself as the perfect solution: with secure, automatic message deletion; and simple set up and shut down.

Credits: This is based on the original article: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/07/11/put_whatsapp_slack_and_admin_privileges_in_a_blender_and_what_do_you_get_wickr/ 

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