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Update - Zoom: Is it Safe?

Update - Zoom: Is it Safe?

A lot happened in 2020, and almost no story rode the rollercoaster like the story of Zoom's security issues and updates.

Two of the biggest issues with Zoom's security – End-to-End Encryption and Zoom's affiliation with China - came under direct fire as the platform was adopted en masse earlier this year. Zoombombing became an every-day term. Zero-day exploits, malicious copycat installers, and stolen credentials were also high up on the list of security concerns.

The good news is that Zoom quickly and diligently worked to patch and resolve most of their known issues. Zoom 5+ rectified many security flaws and default configurations to get users to a better starting security point.

On October 27, 2020, Zoom finally launched End-to-End (E2E) encryption for everyone. Here's how to turn on E2E in Zoom, though E2E encryption is not turned on for all meetings by default:

You can view all of Zoom's updates (including release notes) here:

The bad news is that Zoom's affiliation with China continues to be a serious security concern. In June, Zoom suspended the accounts of Chinese dissidents at the behest of China, drawing the ire of the US government and proponents of free speech everywhere. On December 18, 2020, a Zoom executive was formally charged with "conspiracy to commit interstate harassment and unlawful conspiracy to transfer a means of identification" by the US Department of Justice. The executive was found to have suspended Zoom accounts relating to meetings commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre's anniversary.

"Americans should understand that the Chinese government will not hesitate to exploit companies operating in China to further their international agenda, including repression of free speech," Christopher Wray, director of the FBI, said in a statement regarding Zoom and its affiliation with China.

On Tuesday, November 10, 2020, the FTC announced that Zoom was found to have "misled users" and "engaged in a series of deceptive and unfair practices" regarding its own security. Simulated end-to-end encryption claims were uncovered in March, and unauthorized software installed on Macs from 2018 and 2019 were cited in the report. Zoom settled with the FTC and agreed to annual internal security reviews, along with biennial external security reviews and a formal vulnerability management program.

Finally, the Better Business Bureau is warning Zoom users that scammers are trying to steal their usernames and passwords via phishing emails and text messages, according to ThreatPost.

As stated in this article's original posting, NO online platform is (or ever will be) 100% secure. As we saw recently with the SolarWinds cyberattack, third-party applications will always be a (mostly) trusted method of attacking organizations. However, with particular respect to Zoom's continued ties to China, there are certainly stronger, more-secure alternatives for your corporate videoconferencing needs, especially if you require some assurance of privacy and data protection.


Written by: 
Jon Waldman, Chief People Officer, SBS CyberSecurity and President, SBS Institute


SBS Resources: 
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Posted: Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Categories: Blog