Written by: Jay H.
The increase of remote workers and students due to the coronavirus pandemic has let the Zoom video conferencing app see a surge of users. Its simple interface has made it the default video chat platform for millions. Going from 10 million users in December to 200 million in March, Zoom is the No. 1 most downloaded app in the Apple and Google app stores. The British Columbian government has even licensed Zoom to support virtual learning for grade school students. However, despite its popularity, several privacy and security issues have surfaced for Zoom.
Hackers and pranksters have been targeting private and public conferences and displaying offensive material. This practice has is referred to as ‘Zoom-bombing’, and is now a federal offense in the United States. Many schools in the United States have also banned the app and are switching to alternative platforms.
Zoom Privacy & Security Issues
Alongside “Zoom-bombing”, Zoom has been scrutinized for other issues, including routing calls through China, as well as not providing end-to-end encryption of calls despite claiming it did so.
Furthermore, corrupting and replacing the software with a malicious version that hijacks the application is easy. Although the platform has anti-tampering mechanisms in place, the mechanisms themselves are not protected from tampering. This means malware already on a computer could tamper with Zoom, and criminals can create fully functional versions of Zoom altered to perform malicious acts.
Zoom CEO and founder Eric Yuan apologized for the issues and promised to address them, pledging to halt regular development of the platform while the company worked to fix security and privacy concerns.
“We recognize that we have fallen short of the community’s – and our own – privacy and security expectations,” Yuan wrote. He stated that Zoom would deal with these issues by “enacting a feature freeze, effectively immediately, and shifting all our engineering resources to focus on our biggest trust, safety, and privacy issues.”
Securing your Zoom conferences
Despite the issues present, for non-confidential meetings, Zoom is satisfactory. There are steps that schools and businesses can take to help secure their Zoom meetings:
- Let only the Host share the screen: To solve the issue of “Zoom-bombing”, adjust the screen share options to allow only the Host to share their screen. From the general Zoom settings app window, click the “Share Screen” option and select “Advanced settings”. There, only allow the Host to share their screen.
- Don’t share video conferencing links in public social media posts: An obvious tip, but don’t post your video conferencing link in public social media posts to prevent unwanted guests from joining.
- Use Waiting Rooms: This option allows the host to screen the guests before the meeting begins. To access this feature, go to your master account settings and click “Settings”. Then, click on the “Meetings” tab, and scroll down to the bottom. You will find the “Waiting Room” option, which, once enabled, will become the default setting for all meetings.
To reiterate, Zoom is acceptable for non-confidential meetings, such as classroom discussions. Following the above tips can minimize the risks of privacy issues, such as “Zoom-bombing”. However, if you are uncomfortable using the platform, or are hosting a confidential meeting, alternatives such as Microsoft Teams or Skype may be better suited.
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