Amid the Wuhan virus pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns all over the planet, the Zoom video-conferencing app and its use has skyrocketed with millions of downloads as the world gets confined to their households. The meteoric rise of Zoom’s CEO Eric Yuan has been one fairy-tale of sorts. He has joined Forbes’ billionaire’s list for the first time as the company cashed in on the pandemic. But the rise of Zoom has been riddled with grave security and privacy concerns which has put numerous countries on the vigil with few of them have already banned it.
Reported earlier by TFI, Zoom admitted and apologized for routing the user’s messages through China despite being a US, NASDAQ enlisted company; not following the true end-to-end encryption model and “zoombombing” when uninvited strangers crashed meetings with lewd and at times explicit content.
Zoom had already been banned in Taiwan by the government amidst rising concerns over the apps security features. The lapses drove away customers that included the likes of Elon Musk, who has banned the use of Zoom for SpaceX and Tesla due to privacy concerns. New York City has directed its schools — a system with more than 1.1 million students — to move away from using Zoom as soon as possible.
Now other countries have started following the suit. Singapore has suspended the use of Zoom by teachers, its education ministry said on Friday, after “very serious incidents” occurred in the first week of the Wuhan virus 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.
Even in Hong Kong, the education officials are in discussions with schools over their use of the Zoom app after security concerns were raised about personal data leaks and the hacking of online classes and posting of explicit material.
The German foreign ministry has restricted the use of the video conferencing service because of similar security concerns, according to media reports on Wednesday.
Alphabet Inc’s Google also moved to ban Zoom from corporate laptops on Wednesday over similar concerns. The mounting levels of concern about the app’s reliability have led to a crash in share prices over the last 10 days after the onset of the crisis saw them on the rise.
This is not the first time that Zoom has been found in a pickle. It has a troubled history since its inception. Zoom has had security flaws in the past, including a vulnerability that allowed an attacker to remove attendees from meetings, spoof messages from users and hijack shared screens. Another saw Mac users forced into calls without their knowledge.
As a panic countermeasure to mitigate any possible loss, Zoom quickly rewrote its policy and asserted that it does not sell personal data but concerns remain as hackers can steal windows passwords and inject malware. The biggest issue of all is with the encrypting and securing of calls.
Zoom Video Communications has now announced the hiring of former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos as an adviser to improve the privacy and security of their app. Although Stamos has previously been a vocal critic of Zoom’s security levels going as far as saying ‘Zoom’s problems range from silly design decisions to serious product-security flaws.’
The app is not safe for use by any means whatsoever and in the day and age when privacy is the most prized commodity, using Zoom is a sure shot way to compromise it. Until the company gets its act together and fixes the bugs and makes the entire privacy-policies transparent, users should steer away from it.
Zoom might ride on the wave of the pandemic for the short-term gains but the going will be difficult afterward in the long-run if the company continues to operate this way.