Due to social distancing measures put in place by governments around the world to help combat the current global pandemic, the use of video calling platforms has risen dramatically. US company, Zoom, is one of these platforms that has seen a huge spike in its user base.
Zoom has been widely adopted across the world due to its ease of use and the sheer number of people that can be on a video call at once – up to 100 participants with the basic/free account tier. But, are you risking your privacy and is it worth it?
Last week, UK intelligence agencies revealed to the UK Government and parliament that they feared Zoom could be susceptible to Chinese surveillance, telling them to only use the platform for public business and not to discuss any confidential information on Zoom calls. This warning came after a cabinet meeting was held using Zoom at the end of March. The meeting was well publicised and at the time, the decision was defended with a statement explaining that it was necessary in “unprecedented circumstances”.
As well as concerns from the intelligence agencies, there have been several other issues with Zoom’s video calling software. The first doesn’t actually involve video calling; hackers have been altering the Zoom application installer to add malicious software, as well as just listing malicious files as Zoom installers online – users are then running these fake installers and allowing hackers access to their computers and personal files.
Another of the issues has been widely referred to as ‘Zoombombing’. Zoombombing is where an unexpected/uninvited user joins a video conference with the main goal of causing as much disruption as possible. The attacker can obtain meeting IDs in several ways, one being simply brute forcing their way in; trying different combinations of numbers until one matches an active meeting ID. There has also been cases of meeting IDs being leaked by participants of meetings, this has been especially an issue in the US with students wanting people to Zoombomb their class video conferences.
If you are required to use Zoom, there are some things that you can check to make sure that you have the best possible chance of not being disturbed during your video conference. First, ensure that your Zoom meeting has a password, this means that instead of just requiring the meeting ID, anyone attempting to join would need to have the password too. Secondly, turn on the waiting room feature, this makes anyone attempting to join the meeting ‘knock’ and the host must allow them in. Finally, don’t install the Zoom software, you are able to join meetings through your web browser. If you are required to install the software, ensure that you source the installer from the official Zoom website.