How Secure Is Slack?
How Secure Is Slack?
Slack has a very long and interesting backstory that most of its users don’t know about. Slack’s lead creator, Stewart Butterfield, first gained fame when he and his team created Flickr, which turned into one of the largest image-sharing platforms of the early internet (and is still around today!).
After this early success, the team moved on to create Butterfield’s next project, an MMORPG called Glitch. The game was massively popular for a short period of time before it was forgotten along with many other browser-based games (people were turning to console gaming and PC gaming instead). Glitch was forced to shut down due to decreasing revenue, and Butterfield had to lay off most of his core development team.
So, in a last-ditch effort, Butterfield and his remaining developers created Slack. The goal of the platform was to create an easy messaging and communication platform that businesses and groups could use to communicate with each other.
Today, especially with the advent of COVID-19 and digital workspaces, Slack is bigger than it’s ever been! However, there are a few notable security concerns with Slack that have some users questioning just how private and secure their information on the platform is.
So, in today’s post, we’re going to address some of the top security concerns around Slack and explain some of the risk factors. Then, we’ll give you some helpful tips for how to ensure that your Slack account is as secure and private as possible by using a secure VPN service while accessing the app, two-factor authentication, and more.
Let’s take a look!
Is Slack A Security Risk?
Slack is used by businesses, schools, and various professional organizations around the world. As such, it’s received some widespread criticism for its lack of security in certain areas. For example, Slack does not encrypt all messages or use a zero-knowledge security model to protect its users’ data and private messages.
Common Security Concerns With Slack
Although Slack is far from an unsafe platform, it certainly leaves something to be desired in terms of overall security and internet safety. So, that being said, here are some of the most common security concerns that some users have complained about while using the popular Slack messaging platform.
Perhaps the most obvious security concern is that any administrator within a Slack group can view the IP addresses of any other member of the Slack group. This, of course, raises some rather obvious security concerns, as your IP address can be used to identify where you’re located. This is also why you should be using a secure VPN like NordVPN or Trust.Zone VPN to mask your location and IP address.
For example, let’s just say that there’s a creepy manager/administrator in your Slack office group. Whenever you’re logged into the app, that administrator would be able to see your IP address and therefore surmise your location. Not exactly secure, right?
Granted, this feature also helps to keep your Slack account safe in some instances. For example, if an administrator notices that a strange new IP address is being used to access your account, it could raise a red flag and notify them that a potential hacker has managed to compromise your account and is accessing it from a remote location.
So, it’s kind of a grey area when it comes to security. The problem is that it relies on the trustworthiness of the administrator.
Potential Data Breaches
Since Slack is used by so many large corporations and institutions, it’s a rather obvious target for hackers and data thieves. If a hacker were to gain unauthorized access to a Slack group, they would be able to view personal contact information and even read private company messages and data.
The hackers could then leak all of this data online or sell it on the dark web to scammers and other nefarious organizations. Since it’s almost impossible to secure every user’s Slack account within a given group, Slack is a high-risk target for a data breach.
Slack Messages Aren’t Completely Secure
Another common concern while using Slack is that your messages aren’t completely secure. Unlike some other messaging platforms (i.e., Telegram, Signal), Slack doesn’t use a zero-knowledge hashing protocol. This means that your messages are stored within Slack’s central servers and can be accessed by Slack employees who have permission.
Another security risk regarding your messages is that the owner of a Slack group (for example, your boss or teacher) can download a zip file containing all private messages sent by all members within the group. This means that your messages sent within group chats and even “private” messages sent to other users within the group are not completely secure.
Can Police Read My Slack Messages?
Since Slack keeps records of all messages sent and received on the platform, they can access these messages at any time. This means that if you’re under investigation by law enforcement or government agencies, they can get a warrant that will force Slack to hand over your previous message data. Although these instances are rare, they do happen.
In the event that Slack does hand over your message data to law enforcement, you will usually be notified by an email or text message to your saved profile contact information.
How To Remain Secure On Slack
Slack is primarily used by businesses, schools, and other professional organizations. This means that you may not have a choice as to whether or not you use Slack, since your boss may require you to be on the platform to work virtually or receive cross-company messages. In this case, you don’t really have a choice. However, you can implement some safety measures to reduce any risk to your personal data.
So, now that we’ve gone over some of the primary security risks associated with Slack, let’s turn the page and discuss some of the ways that you can remain safe and secure while using Slack.
1. Use A Strong Password For Your Account: Let’s start with an obvious tip… use a strong password for your Slack account. The stronger your password is, the less likely your account will be hacked into. Hackers often use brute-force hacking software that rapid-fire guesses your password by running through the entire dictionary or cross-referenceing known data about you (such as your birthday, pets’ names, etc.).
A strong password should consist of random words, strings of letters, numbers, special symbols, and should use both upper and lowercase letters. This ensures that even if a hacker is using brute-force software, that your password can’t be guessed.
2. Use Two-Factor Authentication: Another thing we recommend is turning on your two-factor authentication within slack. With two-factor authentication enabled, you’ll receive a confirmation message via text or email that you’ll need to answer before being allowed to log into your account. This ensures that any hacker trying to access your account from an unrecognized IP address will be required to complete the authentication process. Unless they have direct access to your phone or email account, they won’t be able to get into your account.
3. Use A VPN To Mask Your IP Address and Location: If you want to prevent Slack administrators in your group from knowing your location, then your best bet is to use a VPN service to mask your IP address, and therefore your location. If you’re new to VPNs, then there are a number of VPNs that offer free trial periods, so you can try them before you commit to buying them.
4. Don’t Send Overly Personal Messages On Slack: As we discussed above, the messages you send on Slack aren’t completely private. This means that they can still be read or exported by people working at Slack, the owner of your Slack channel, law enforcement, and more.
Ultimately, Slack was designed to be a work communication platform, not a private messaging platform. If you want to have private chats and communication, then we suggest using a secure, encrypted chat app like Telegram, Signal, or WhatsApp instead. Keep your Slack messages clean, legal, and limit personal information or sensitive company data that you share on Slack.
5. Limit Your Profile Information: Lastly, we also suggest limiting the amount of information you include on your Slack profile page. You’re not required to enter anything other than your name and username. So, if you value your privacy, don’t upload personal pictures, write a detailed biography, include personal contact information, or any other details that you wouldn’t want to fall into the wrong hands.
For the most part, Slack is a great resource, especially for businesses and organizations that need a simple, easy way to communicate with one another. That being said, it’s not quite as private or secure as some people may think it is. So, when you’re using Slack, just remember to limit the personal data you share and double-think before sending overly personal messages.
If you want to remain as secure as possible, just follow the steps outlined in the section above. Until next time, stay safe, stay anonymous, and keep the cyberbugs away!