Cybersecurity Challenges of using Slack for your Business

Attomus / Blog

Today's guest post comes from Regi Publico, looking at the issues that Slack brings into the Enterprise.

With the dramatic shift to remote working we have witnessed during the pandemic, developments in communication and technology have gained momentum. The way we work isn’t the same as it used to be. 

To keep a collaborative environment even when working from home or wherever employees find themselves most productive nowadays, businesses rely on platforms like Slack. With 8 million plus daily users, the chat system gives teams a convenient and accessible way to communicate. But with all of the benefits it provides, it also comes with cybersecurity risks.

Man typing into Slack on a laptop

To counter these threats and achieve long-term data security on Slack, it’s crucial to first understand them a little better. Below are five of the most common cybersecurity challenges you might experience while using Slack for your business and ways on how you can manage them. 

Onboarding New Employees & Guest Users

Cybersecurity threats might seem like they will always stem from weaknesses in a system’s code, but there are many times when these risks arise due to user error. That’s why employees should train for cybersecurity while using Slack—especially if you are onboarding or off-boarding internal employees and external guests.

If any user is left in your organisation’s Slack workspace after their affiliation has ended, they might retain access to confidential business information. 

Take note of the following to mitigate cybersecurity threats: 

  • If admins can add external guests, your organisation needs to put regularly-reviewed policies in place. Make sure that you have clear rules regarding the removal of guests once their engagement with your company is completed. 
  • If you already have standard employee onboarding and termination procedures set, adding the onboarding and off-boarding of Slack accounts is a great addition to your process. Communication with HR is vital as IT or whichever department is responsible for employees’ Slack user accounts must know exactly when they should create or delete a user account. 

Assigning Roles Within The Workspace 

Slack users with “Admin” and “Owner” roles are given a significant amount of power within the system. They are the only ones from your organisation that can create and manage user groups. However, it’s important to know that any admin can change those settings easily in a drop-down menu. 

It is because of this that any one of your organisation’s admins can go in and make it possible for all of a workspace’s users to modify, create, delete, and disable user groups. Aside from the obvious potential for abuse of power, user error can also occur which may result in unintentional deletion of important groups. 

Because of this, having one employee to create, moderate, and manage user groups is not advisable. Grant admin rights to a few users, but balance the potential risk of data loss when doing so. Whenever you are assigning Admin and Owner roles, understand what their rights and responsibilities are so that you’re comfortable assigning these roles to certain employees. 

Insider Threat 

One of the biggest risks to cybersecurity is insider threat - Slack is no different. Aside from a collaboration and productivity tool, it also acts as a digital water cooler for your employees and that may just cause a few problems data-wise. 

Employees can casually share sensitive information over Slack and not think much about it. However, even if Slack encrypts its data, it is still good practice to be careful about what we say. 

The security of a platform is only as strong as the people using it. That’s why training employees is crucial. Don’t forget to monitor for threats and implement layered security protocols in addition to what Slack already offers. 

Third-Party Integrations 

Slack has made it very easy for users to integrate third-party apps such as Google Drive and CRM. While this creates a smoother collaboration process, linking these apps just means that obtaining information that may or may not be sensitive will be effortless. 

Rule of thumb, avoid third-party app integrations as much as possible. This is the safest solution. However, if connecting Slack to your apps is extremely beneficial to your organisation, always confirm first that the appropriate authentication protocols are being followed. 

Review any third-party integrations every quarter. If you have integrations that you no longer need, remove them immediately.

Vulnerabilities In The System 

Due to Slack’s current popularity and the size of its active user base, it has become an appealing target for hackers. Not even this communication tool is off-limits to cybercrime and breaches especially since it holds valuable private information. 

Data breaches on Slack can expose usernames, email addresses, encrypted passwords, and phone numbers that are stored by your company. While these threats are beyond your organisation’s control, but they still need to be understood to map the threat landscape of cloud systems and applications. 

No platform can guarantee that it will never be breached by those who would like to take advantage of your data. Hence, it’s important to prepare for the worst-case scenario should a Slack security breach occur. 

Never ever settle for less when it comes to securing the communication platforms your organisation uses. When it comes to cybersecurity, it pays to be doubly secure. Policies are great, but incorporating Slack security training into new employee programs and running regular refresher courses are the best proactive solutions to prevent cybersecurity threats over Slack from ever happening.

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