As long as its done over a virtual private network using encryption, videoconferencing security should be no problem, but when enabling software which uses the internet comes into play, issues arise, says Co-Logic Security owner Arjen de Landgraaf.
"There's a lot of software out there that has videoconferencing capabilities -- if there is a problem with the software it would be possible to break in at one of the end-points."
"There have been a number of cases where computers have been broken into and the hacker has been able to listen to anything [transmitted from the PC]."
When laptops, which usually have a built-in microphone, are used [in a webcam situation], the potential for a videoconference to be eavesdropped on is greater, de Landgraaf says.
Asnet Technologies' Chris Stewart says ISDN and IP videoconferencing offers security because it's impossible to listen in on an ISDN communication the same way a PSTN call can be eavesdropped on and in the IP world, videoconferencing connections have to be adjusted for corporate firewalls.
The H.323 standard which governs IP videoconferencing "exists in its own right inside the internet and is quite secure," he says.
Webcams attached to users' PCs and using the public internet are a different matter, he says.
As for the cost, a simple webcam set-up can be done for around $100 a camera and a few hours enabling the users' PCs and free software such as Microsoft's NetMeeting means there are few additional costs.
At the corporate videoconferencing room level, however, set up costs can be high, running into tens of thousands of dollars.
Stewart says prices for Polycom's group videoconferencing set-ups in New Zealand range from $9,000 to $40,000 per location, with the average initial investment being in the $20-$30,000 range.
US-based publication NetworkWorld notes "endpoints range from a pair of $US50 webcams connected to PCs to $US50,000 boardroom-based systems that have multiple cameras and microphones."