Zoom Backlash Continues As Governments, Organizations Raise Concerns

Published June 4th, 2020 - 12:30 GMT
Zoom Backlash Continues As Governments, Organizations Raise Concerns
The platform became an overnight sensation worldwide with millions suddenly homebound due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions. (Shutterstock)
Highlights
There are growing calls to exercise caution when using video conferencing platform Zoom or to avoid usage altogether due to a series of vulnerabilities.
A growing number of government offices, private companies, and even schools have instructed their staff not to use video conferencing platform Zoom, citing the possibility that privacy and security could be compromised.
 
The platform became an overnight sensation worldwide with millions suddenly homebound due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions.
 
But it has faced a barrage of criticism in recent weeks over issues such as encryption, routing of traffic, and the phenomenon of "zoom-bombing" in which uninvited guests hijack meetings and harass participants.
 
In late March, it emerged that several days before British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a Cabinet meeting about the coronavirus crisis over Zoom, the country's Ministry of Defence had ordered all of its workers to immediately stop using the platform. The ministry said an investigation of "security implications" was underway and that staff should be "cautious of cyber resilience" under the current circumstances.
 
Defense personnel in Australia are said to have received a special bulletin banning them from using Zoom while working remotely, citing possible exploitation of security flaws by hostile foreign actors.
 
Last week, Germany's Foreign Ministry advised its staff not to use the platform, according to a German newspaper report.
 
In the US, the Department of Defense spokesman was quoted as saying that there is no official policy regarding the use of Zoom. US troops, defense department employees and contractors are reportedly allowed to use the platform in unclassified situations.

But according to a report in the Financial Times, all US senators were advised by the Senate's sergeant-at-arms against using Zoom due to the privacy and security issues.
 
It also emerged that the staff of Brazil's food and drug regulator, part of the country's Health Ministry, were sent a memo on April 6 asking them to remove Zoom from all devices and instead use Microsoft Teams, which it said was proven to be highly secure.
 
And in an April 7th press release, the executive branch of the Taiwanese government said its Department of Cyber Security advised all government organizations that if video conferencing is required, "the underlying video software to be used should not have associated security or privacy concerns, such as the Zoom video communication service."
 
Both New York City and Singapore have suspended usage of the platform at their schools, and a number of US school districts are reportedly reassessing their use of the software.
 
Meanwhile, NASA, Google, Tesla and rocket company SpaceX are all said to have banned the use of Zoom on their systems.
 
According to recently-released research by the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, Zoom may not be suitable for those requiring privacy because encryption keys could be intercepted in some cases, and some data was routed through China.
 
Zoom is reported to be endeavoring to address the various vulnerabilities. In an April 1st blog post, the company's CEO apologized for falling short of security and privacy expectations, saying the company enacted a feature freeze and shifted all of its engineering resources to focus on its biggest trust, safety, and privacy issues.
 

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