by Alex Palmer | March 23, 2016
Risks to meetings come in many forms, as Successful Meetings' April cover story explains. One of the growing issues that planners must take into account is the risks associated with data security. As more business is conducted online and on mobile devices, it has become more important than ever for groups and individuals to ensure they are mitigating risks that can impinge on their digital security. 
With this in mind, Successful Meetings spoke with Trever Roald, manager of industry relations for event and conference app company QuickMobile, discussing what risks planners should be aware of and how these are changing.

Q: How would you say the risks associated with data privacy and digital security have changed in the last year or two?

A: Data privacy and digital security risks have been of intense interest and hotly contested at many recent IT conferences. Planners now share the same evolving concerns, as technology entrenches itself firmly into their events and meetings. The current trend of "mobility first" exposes new opportunities for hackers and organized crime to attack, and smartphones are the new targets.  

Planners must now pay greater attention to what information they share through their apps and events and how they share it. Mobile technologies offer access and distribution capabilities that place confidential information at increasing risk. New initiatives are now required by planners to identify confidential information and determine if it should be accessible at all. 

In the cases where confidential information must be distributed at events, the dependence on the security policies of the technology vendors increases. Ensuring that all in-house and contracted technologies keep a strict security measures in place, is the only way to thwart a hacker from discovering the "weakest link" in the chain.

Q: Are there certain geographic regions or locations where these risk might be more pronounced than others?

A: Certain countries seem to house more organized crime that target not only personal information such as credit card and social security numbers, but corporate espionage of intellectual property. As the world embraces mobile devices, the risks of security and privacy lose their geographical barriers. 

Since most devices need an access point to connect to the internet, public Wi-Fi is the now the largest security concern. Airports, malls, sporting events, and conferences are now the perfect location to scoop email credentials, Facebook passwords or classified documents. Event attendees should assume all public networks are hazardous and as a practice, should not send critical information through untrusted networks. Event planners have to be vigilant for spoof network hubs suggesting "Free Wi-Fi" or "Official Wi-Fi" at their conferences in order to protect their attendees.

Q: What are steps that you recommend planners take to help their attendees keep their data secure while traveling or at an event? 

A: For increased security, it is recommended to limit the availability of sensitive documents to a time that matches the event date and times. Posting documents weeks before or after an event increases the opportunity for those wishing to illegally obtain documents.

Secondly, planners should enforce password protection on event apps that conforms to the appropriate security standard. Planners should keep in mind the types of data they are sharing with their attendees. The greater the confidentiality, the greater the need for security.

Lastly, Planners should sync up with their IT departments and adopt their security policies and data protection processes. Security is a mature topic in the IT world, and events planners can benefit from those years of experience. Treating event security as a natural extension of pre-existing corporate security is a sure way to keep attendees safe.