Zoom, this videoconferencing service is where many peoples’ work and social lives now unfold. Due to the corona virus outbreak it has forced millions of people to shift their working space to this online platform. Everyday millions of users are involved in meetings, online classes and in conversations with their friends. Even though this software has tried to bridge the gap between the people it has also brought some issues.
Started in 2011, it has taken 9 years for the company to achieve ‘overnight’ success.
The company’s founder believes that “video is the future of communications” and since the beginning of the publicly-traded company, investors seemed to buy his vision.
BUT IT LOOKS LIKE THAT FUTURE CAME MUCH FASTER AND MORE ABRUPTLY THAN ANYONE COULD HAVE EXPECTED. “THIS IS A VERY CRITICAL MOMENT,” YUAN SAID ON A CONFERENCE CALL WITH ANALYSTS EARLIER LAST MONTH. “OVERNIGHT ALMOST EVERYBODY READ AND UNDERSTOOD THEY NEEDED A TOOL LIKE THIS.”
However, to such rapid growth and attention, there are downsides that come along with it. Just like social networks, Zoom is also facing concerns about privacy and online harassment. We have seen how tricksters/pranksters are “Zoom Bombing” people’s meetings and classes. This has become a major issue for the company to handle.
The major problem that came out from the company was that they admitted they mistakenly routed data through China. This has raised speculations of the company being in murky waters.
Researchers at the University of Toronto claimed that the encryption used on Zoom’s keys issued through servers in China. This happened even when call participants were located outside of China.
The researchers explain: “During a test of a Zoom meeting with two users, one in the United States and one in Canada, we found that the AES-128 key for conference encryption and decryption was sent to one of the participants over TLS from a Zoom server apparently located in Beijing, 188.8.131.52”.
They added: “A company primarily catering to North American clients that sometimes distributes encryption keys through servers in China is potentially concerning, given that Zoom may be legally obligated to disclose these keys to authorities in China”.
Rerouting these non-Chinese calls through have become a major security threat for the people who are using it.
Companies and Schools Are banning Zoom!
Because of major security concerns most of the companies have decided to discontinue communication with their employees through Zoom. Even schools have banned their students from using zoom.
Singapore Schools faced ‘very serious incidents’ on Zoom conference calls and decided to ban using it
The teachers were instructed to stop using the online software to teach students, this order has come from the government due to some ‘very serious incidents.
Here is an excerpt from the Reuters news report:
Singapore has suspended the use of video-conferencing tool Zoom by teachers, its education ministry said on Friday, after “very serious incidents” occurred in the first week of a coronavirus lockdown that has seen schools move to home-based learning.
One of the incidents involved obscene images appearing on screens and strange men making lewd comments during the streaming of a geography lesson with teenage girls, according to local media reports […]
“These are very serious incidents. MOE (Ministry of Education) is currently investigating both breaches and will lodge a police report if warranted,” said Aaron Loh of the ministry’s educational technology division, without detailing the incidents.
“As a precautionary measure, our teachers will suspend their use of Zoom until these security issues are ironed out.”
Even a school has banned the usage of Zoom to have Online classes.
Officials at Berkeley High School in California said they suspended use of the app after a “naked adult male using racial slurs” intruded on what the school said was a password-protected meeting on Zoom, according to a letter to parents seen by Reuters.
The Companies Who Have Banned Zoom
Google, SpaceX and Smart Communications have forbidden their employees from using Zoom due to privacy and security concerns. Google has banned Zoom from company-owned devices and they have been directed to use Duo instead.
Government and Government agencies have also banned the use of Zoom
- The United States Senate has urged its members to choose platforms other than Zoom due to security concerns but has not issued an outright ban.
- NASA has banned all of its employees from using Zoom.
- The Australian Defense Force banned its members from using Zoom after an Australian comedian Zoom bombed one of its meetings.
- The German Foreign Ministry has restricted the use of Zoom from personal computers for emergency situations only, as reported by Reuters.
- Taiwan has banned the usage of Zoom for all government agencies.
Eric Zuan, the CEO of the videoconferencing company said they are going to work and focus on improving “safety, and privacy” on its platform for the next 90 days by using all of its resources. They have also been performing what is know an ‘white box’ penetration tests and has also fixed some issues regarding it.
They have also created a security advisory council – but while one of the members is highly-respected security professional. He is Alex Stamos who is a former Facebook security chief. Mr.Stamos is going to advise them on security and privacy concerns after facing a global backlash.