With 1.7 million daily active users, it’s clear Slack has come to dominate the team chat world, especially in the tech industry. This, however, means that a fair amount of security is required to ensure that strategic assets remain safe.
From a security perspective, Slack has done a solid job of keeping its assets on lock, going so far as to score Geoff Belknap from Palantir in 2016 as its chief security officer. The company is also transparent about its approach to security and has dedicated a whole section of its website to it, including interviews with Belknap and others that delve into Slack’s precautions and philosophy around security.
The company has also certified many of its products to meet strict compliance regulations including FINRA, HIPAA and SOC 2 and 3, which makes it a no-brainer for small teams and enterprises alike.
So, it’s perfectly possible for companies of all shapes and sizes to lean on Slack for team chat and ops without worrying too much about security. However, no one’s perfect, and Slack’s ubiquity and popularity mean it will always be a target for cybercriminals looking to steal information—that’s basically the nature of being a cloud-based application.
While, there’s no need to run scared, you do need to be smart about how you use this valuable tool. Here are a few tips for running Slack securely at your organization.
Use Slack for SecOps
Slack can be easily used for distributed security alerting, which means every member of your organization can play a role in keeping the business secure.
Your security operations likely include members of the DevOps team as well as dedicated security folks, and Slack can help all team members integrate security into their workflows seamlessly. DevOps folks may not frequently log in to Threat Stack platform directly. However, any relevant alerts or notifications can be sent to them immediately via Slack, where they can be reviewed and the determination can be made whether further action is needed—all without having to step outside the daily workflow. This means security tasks don’t pose an extra headache, but are just a natural part of the way the company’s operations run.
Require Two-Factor Authentication
Slack’s built-in security precautions won’t do you much good unless you actually put them into practice. One great example is two-factor authentication (2FA). It’s up to team owners and admins to require this of their users (otherwise, it will be optional, and most users won’t bother). It is highly advisable you take advantage of this feature, which makes it much more difficult for hackers to tap into your organization’s Slack channels.
Set Up User Provisioning and Deprovisioning
Security-minded organizations need to be conscious of and work around insider threats. This also includes employees who have left the company, whether on their own terms or due to an incident.
To ensure that you do not have any “lurkers” who might be able to take advantage of company information shared on Slack after they have left the company, it’s a good idea to plan ahead for user provisioning and deprovisioning.
In fact, this should be built into your process for onboarding and offboarding employees, just like it would be for email or any other company asset. If possible, automate the process, so that the moment someone leaves the company, they no longer have access to Slack. To get started, here’s Slack’s guide to provisioning and deprovisioning users.
Don’t Share Secrets
Slack is a great place to have secure conversations, which unfortunately can lull some users into a false sense of complete security. “Secure” doesn’t mean you should treat it like it’s watertight; in other words, Slack should never be used to share secrets such as passwords, sensitive customer data or valuable corporate IP—basically, anything that could be considered highly confidential. A good rule of thumb is this: If a piece of information could be dangerous in a hacker’s hands, it doesn’t belong on Slack. Instead, it’s a good idea to use encrypted communication channels, like PGP-enabled email.
None of the tips above will do your organization any good if no one knows about them. So make sure that you regularly educate your users about steps they need to take to stay secure while using Slack (such as never sharing passwords there). You should hold user security training whenever new employees come on board, and also make sure to do a refresher now and again with the entire company.
Additionally, if you change up security protocols around tools like Slack, make sure employees are given a heads up and reminded when new measures go into effect so they know what to expect. Remember: The best offense is a good defense.
Don’t Slack on Security
Slack is a great platform with all kinds of benefits for teams. As long as you take the right security precautions, there’s no reason why it can’t be used to its full potential on your team, whether you’re a small shop or a multinational enterprise. As with any other tool, the shared responsibility model is key. Take responsibility for your half of the security equation, and you should be well on your way to a secure Slack implementation.