IR Connect Remote Technical Review

IR Connect Remote Technical Review

Zoom vs WebEx Technical Comparison Traffic Test

With all the current media coverage surrounding the security of the Zoom platform, IR has conducted internal technical tests to determine which platform we are supporting going forward.

IR believes both platforms work and are secure for our usage. We offer WebEx as an alternative to Zoom if for any reason a client does not want to use it. However, IR prefers the quality of the video, audio and simplicity of use in Zoom over WebEx.  As a small business ourselves, we like to support them. Although Zoom is no longer in this category, we have been supporting them since they were once a small business.

Zoom and WebEx both operate in similar ways, both establish a connection to one of their servers and then data is transmitted to the other computer in the connection.

Zoom

Zoom establishes a connection with a single server, hosted with AWS (Amazon Web Services), based in the USA. A small amount of data is transmitted over this connection, it is a standard secured TCP port 443, similar to most current web traffic. The bulk of the data (video + audio) is then sent directly to the other computer participating in the call, which has also established a connection to the AWS server. We only have access to basic statistical software for web tracking purposes as we are not a software engineering firm. The assumptions on data patterns point towards a connection to the AWS server to ensure both parties are on the same call, and then to transmit data directly between the parties.

This will bring us to the first publicized concern about Zoom claiming end-to-end encryption. As the data is sent via UDP, encryption isn’t possible as it is only supported on a TCP connection. However, current IP based video conference software, supplied mostly by Cisco and Polycom, and used by courthouses and governments across the country is also UDP based, which isn’t encrypted. All VPN servers where someone can remote connect to an office computer is also UDP based. It is a direct tunnel, which doesn’t confirm where data is going, it just assumes it is going to the right location since a secure connection was established previously telling it where to go.

The second common Zoom complaint is “Zoom-Bombing.” This addressed people trying to gain access to Zoom meetings by randomly generating the Meeting ID codes to show up to unrestricted meetings causing havoc. IR has addressed this issue by requiring passwords in place for all Zoom meetings, as well as restricting guest access. Our usage of Zoom is similar to being in a small boardroom where it is obvious if someone enters who isn’t supposed to be present. The Zoom-Bombing issue leans towards a company that may be hosting large meetings with hundreds of attendees, similar to being in a conference hall where controlling access can be more difficult.

The third issue which sparked initial debate involved someone generating a link in the chat. When someone clicked this link, it would automatically send that person windows login credentials. This isn’t new, and technically is a Windows security flaw, of which Windows and other operating systems have had and been around for years without being addressed. The general good practice that most people follow is not to click on unknown email links. The same applies to any online chatroom, including WebEx.

WebEx

When a WebEx meeting is started, a connection is established with a Cisco Server, on the same TCP 443 secure port. The difference is the mass bulk of the data is transferred through that connection to multiple US, and in our test case, Netherlands-based Cisco Servers. Multiple servers are required to send the video and audio data because a secure TCP connection is much slower than a direct UDP connection to the other party. In our test case, we could see up to 15 different servers in use, 14 in the USA and 1 in the Netherlands. Again, we cannot see individual packet data, but all the video data was transmitted in this manner. The assumption here is that to maintain the speed required to transmit video, several servers are needed. This is a similar way in which the older free Skype platform functioned, except Skype didn’t use secure ports. We cannot tell if this connection is encrypted, and it is important to note a very large difference in a secure vs encrypted transmission of data. Very few items can be properly encrypted, and it is a very difficult approach for a video feed due to the size of the data. Typically, the initial request to establish a connection between 2 parties can be encrypted, but the video data itself would be difficult if sent on a real-time basis.

This type of connection to several servers to transmit data does delay transmissions slightly, but mostly shows a reduction in AV quality in the connection. Cisco has a lot of servers, it shouldn’t show a big reduction, but theoretically, the more people using it the slower the connection would need to be as servers reach capacity. In the current landscape Internet traffic is becoming an issue with how much data is being sent around everywhere, so we’d likely see connection issues on both Cisco and Zoom platforms deteriorating from home and office-based internet overload before a server slowdown.

Our Conclusion

This analysis was done in house, by people who have been technology focused since before Windows existed. The rapid expansion of the digital age brings tons of questions about many things, security included, and unfortunately, a lot of the answers provided by these companies can raise more questions than they answer. The best we can do its try to form an educated opinion about choosing a way we are comfortable doing something given all the information available.

We operate a more hands-on mentality when it comes to security and control of our equipment, and still hold house in-house servers in place of cloud-based options. IR does not use any third party ISP-provided routers due to our own internal security concerns and we only use commercial level equipment that can be properly monitored. Most people we talk to think this is overkill, but we don’t feel the ISP needs to be aware of the computers on our network.

This summary is in no way intended to endorse one company over another, and IR will continue to offer clients a choice of service through this time frame in order for everyone to try to be able to continue to work as efficiently as possible through the current landscape.

Contact us to learn more or book online to arrange remote court reporting services for your upcoming discoveries.

 

Pets and Hot Weather

Pets and Hot Weather

Now that we’re seeing some really nice, hot weather, one thing to keep in mind is if you’re travelling with your pets in your vehicle.  The Calgary Humane Society has a great article on things to keep in mind if you leave your pet in your car.  And remember, they are using temperatures of 26 celcius.  This week we are expecting 30+, so these numbers increase that much more.

My Human is Zack (Manager, Client Services)

Not only is it cruel to leave your pet in a parked vehicle in these temperatures, worst-case scenario could also leave you with some legal issues, fines, or even criminal charges. So, be smart, read this article, and then have a better understanding of what you should and should not do.

Did you know that Independent Reporters provides donations to both the Calgary Humane Society and the Edmonton Humane Society.  Each year we track the number of online bookings our clients make through our web site and donate $1 for each day clients schedule court reporting services.  Next time you are looking to book a court reporter, do keep us in mind and book online. That way we can continue to provide yearly support to these two great Humane Societies!

Our Teams are in the Playoffs!

Our Teams are in the Playoffs!

It’s been a while, but both our Alberta NHL teams, the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers, are in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs!  Calgary & Edmonton Court Reporters

For both our offices, this means a bit of a rivalry. Although they are not playing against each other – yet – it does mean that the trash talking will begin as each game is played and each team wins or loses.

The best part, should both our teams move out of the first round and continue on to the second, they will face each other. This means the Battle of Alberta will once again happen and bring on one of the best rivalries in hockey. We all remember from the past just how much each city hates the other’s team, so much is being hoped for in both the Oilers and Flames advancing to face-off against each other as they have in the past.

All of us here at Calgary and Edmonton Independent Reporters will be very excited to see this happen and see whose team will get bragging rights over the other.

Good luck to both our teams in 2017!

Court Reporters and Earth Day

Court Reporters and Earth Day

Since it is Earth Day today, the question to us always comes up, Can a court reporting company be friendly to the environment? Yes, we can, and we are!  Both Calgary and Edmonton Independent Reporters are Certified Green by the NNRC Green Commission.

Green Court Reporting Services

People are curious to know how, in an industry that is very tied to paper transcripts, what was done to be a green company.  Independent Reporters undertook the challenge of the NNRC Green Commission to meet their standards and become the first, and ONLY, court reporting company in Canada to be certified green! The management team at IR felt it was the right thing to do to reduce the impact we make on the environment. We know our industry creates a lot of waste, but by making changes in both our Calgary and Edmonton offices, we are doing our part to minimize our footprint on the planet.

What Did We Do To Go Green?

Here is a brief summary of some of the steps IR took to receive our Green Certification.

  • Promote paperless transcripts
  • Print all transcripts two-sided (have been since 1996)
  • Use minimum 30% recycled paper for transcripts
  • In-house recycling program for all recyclables
  • Use electronic memos/emails instead of paper
  • Turn off all non-essential equipment at night
  • Use e-waste programs for all electronic disposal
  • Replace computer equipment with Energy Star equipment
  • Use recycled paper for letterhead and promo material
  • Replace all office lighting with energy efficient lights
  • Use power saving features on computers/printers
  • Promote staff to work from home where possible

What are the benefits to our clients?

By using Independent Reporters for your court reporting services you can do help us to help the environment. When you place a Green Order you will receive a $15.00 credit on your invoice for each transcript that you order, plus there are also no delivery charges. Please note that if you were the examiner and ordered, then we will still need to deliver the original paper transcript to you for filing purposes. This will incur a delivery charge

Contact us to learn more first-hand about our green court reporting services.