Video Call Apps

As technology advances, the number of ways to communicate online grows. Whether you prefer using your computer or mobile device, there is something to suit every need and occasion. Video call apps are a popular, easy choice for online communication, so knowing how they work and how to use them safely is key.

Video Call Apps

As technology advances, the number of ways to communicate online grows. Whether you prefer using your computer or mobile device, there is something to suit every need and occasion. Video call apps are a popular, easy choice for online communication, so knowing how they work and how to use them safely is key.

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5 min read

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5 min read

What is Zoom?

If you frequently work from home, you’re likely to have received invitations to – or even organised - a Zoom call. The service is a cloud-based video conference app that allows you to virtually connect with others using audio and video. The app has become particularly popular with businesses as a single Zoom meeting on their free plan can host up to 100 participants, making it easy to speak to multiple employees at once. You can also record sessions to view later on which can be particularly handy for meetings and note-taking. 

What is Houseparty?

Launched in 2016, Houseparty’s online presence has increased considerably. Available to download for free on both mobile and desktop, it’s estimated that the app has reached around 9 million downloads worldwide, securing its position as a firm favourite for many. Whilst using the service, the Houseparty app allows users to create rooms in which they can virtually meet with their friends, as well as providing a lock feature which prevents strangers from joining.

Other popular video call apps

The option to video chat with connections has been around for years and has been helped along by the rate at which technology develops. Having already cemented their familiarity with businesses and users worldwide, Skype video calls and Google Hangouts remain popular choices for those working from home. Both apps are easily integrated into work calendars and allow for external – often international – calls to be held for free, or as a part of an affordable plan.

For Apple users, the FaceTime app is still a go-to solution for online conversations. In their iOS 12.1.4 update, Apple announced that you can now add up to 32 people in one group, offering an easy way for multiple contacts to connect. With over 1.4 billion active Apple devices around the world, this method shows no sign of being left behind anytime soon.

Are video calling apps safe?

As with general internet usage, making sure you’re aware of potential threats and how to protect yourself from them is vital. Staying connected to conversations surrounding the apps will usually alert you to something harmful or – if the company is transparent with its users – they will alert you personally. It’s important to remember that free video call apps are free for a reason. 

You may not always be fully aware, but your personal information can be shared under the guise of third party data; this can then be distribute to your contacts in each call and can even allow external parties to look at your internet history. Be sure to give them as little personal data as possible, try to limit the amount you need to use them and remember to use a webcam cover when it’s not in use. 

How to use video conferencing apps safely

Whether you’re already using video call apps or want to get started, it’s good to keep safeguarding guidelines in the forefront of your mind. Below are five top tips for making sure that you’re using free video call solutions in safe, enjoyable way.

1. Use authentication (2FA)

This works by providing a one-time passcode to use alongside a username and password when logging into an account. Mobile devices are frequently targeted in malware attacks, so setting up two-factor authentication to access your apps is a great step towards safer usage. This may add a few seconds onto your log-in time, but is extremely beneficial if you’re concerned about cyber threats.

2. Use a firewall

Seen in computer networks, firewalls work by monitoring incoming and outgoing traffic, blocking harmful or potentially unwanted content. They’re particularly good at preventing hackers from attempting to misuse your computer while still allowing trusted content to reach users. Most operating systems will already have a firewall in place and tend to have them enabled as default, but it’s always worth checking your preferences to be sure.  

3. Buy a webcam cover

In light of past cyberattacks, using a webcam cover has been likened to locking your door at night. Even though you might not be in an active call, there are still ways that hackers can manipulate software and breach your offline privacy, so taking this simple step is highly recommended. 

4. Be cautious with invites

For apps such as Zoom and Google Hangouts, the invitation to join can received in the form of a link. Users with access to this can join chatrooms and communicate with whoever may also be attending. However, it’s worth noting that, once these links are shared on public platforms or social media channels, anyone with the link can join. The best way to avoid this is to share this fact with attendees, keep links safe and only share them with known contacts. 

5. Lock your chatrooms

Once you’re in a virtual chatroom and all guests are in, you can lock the room. Locking a Zoom meeting and a Houseparty group are straightforward tasks and prevent unwanted or malicious contacts from entering. This step is particularly useful if you’re aware of the link being made public prior to the call commencing.