The rise of Zoom has been impressive – when the need for web conferencing software increased due to the coronavirus it was Zoom that stood out of the pack to become an overnight sensation. Amazingly, during its peak Zoom had more than 300 million daily users. Families, friends, businesses, and even governments chose Zoom because of its high-quality video calls, user-friendly interface, and apparent secure infrastructure. However, as Zoom earned record profits, it became apparent that the company’s security wasn’t as safe as customers were led to believe.
The Zoombombing Phenomenon
As Zoom entered the common lexicon, so too did the phrase ‘Zoombombing’. Fortunately, Zoom makes it easy for attendees to join a meeting – although perhaps it was too easy. Some online school classes and business meetings found they had uninvited guests showing inappropriate images – a type of incident now known as ‘Zoombombing’. Because Zoom’s meetings are accessed with a shared code, potential ‘Zoombombers’ could search popular social media channels to find these codes and then join, and inevitably ruin, someone else’s meeting.
To combat this, Zoom changed the default settings on educational accounts to require passwords for all meetings. It also reminded users of extra steps they could take to avoid these interruptions, such as locking meetings or creating a waiting room for participants. So, as long as users are vigilant, Zoombombing is no longer a major issue.
Zoom used to boast that its end-to-encryption would make meetings secure from prying eyes. However, it was discovered that Zoom hadn’t been entirely honest about the situation, and although video conferences were secure there was no end-to-end encryption. Increasing pressure from its users meant Zoom had to act. End-to-end encryption is now possible on the platform although it does have to be turned on manually. Users will need to first verify their Zoom account, which can be done by text message before being able to access this feature.
For true privacy advocates end-to-end encryption is essential, but it’s also important for regular users as well. If you’re still concerned, using a VPN adds an extra layer of encryption and ensures that you’re using a totally safe and anonymous connection.
Exposed User Data
That was not the only issue Zoom had with user data though. Some users had their email address and photos exposed due to a glitch with how company directories are handled within the app. This meant those users whose email addresses weren’t from public websites (like Gmail or Yahoo) had all been bundled together. Users in those email groups could potentially view other users’ details and call them through the app. Although Zoom also fixed this issue, it’s another example of Zoom’s security bugs.
As we have seen, there have been several issues with Zoom’s security in the past, and due to its increased popularity, these flaws have only been magnified. Any web conferencing software worth its salt must respond to these issues with authority, and Zoom has been impressive in this respect. On top of fixing issues, the company created a 90-day plan to focus entirely on its security. By freezing its development of other features, it instead centered all of its resources on improving the safety of its app and gave users constant updates on its progress. It’s that kind of transparency that helps win back users’ trust.
Indeed, when you look at Zoom’s rivals, you’ll find that they also have their own security issues. For example, Microsoft Teams frequently updates its application to cover any potential vulnerabilities. Of course, when you have the resources that Microsoft has then it’s much easier to be ahead of the curve and not get caught out like Zoom has. Taking a look at another rival, Blue Jeans, shows a similar tale. BlueJeans was quick to provide customers with additional authentication measures and encryption when web conferencing software security was in the public eye.
Users should take it upon themselves to act safely as well. Using a password manager is a great way to save unique passwords and you can even share your Zoom meeting password with other attendees securely this way. It’s also important to always check your privacy settings – whether you’re using Zoom or any other web conferencing software – to ensure all the additional security features are set up before you begin your online meetings.
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