Home / Tech / Cybersecurity experts say there should be 'less hysteria' about Zoom after multiple privacy and security concerns

Cybersecurity experts say there should be 'less hysteria' about Zoom after multiple privacy and security concerns

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  • Zoom is enjoying a record performance as the coronavirus pandemic forces millions of workers around the world to switch to videoconferencing.
  • The company’s daily downloads have soared from 56,000 to 2 million in months, according to app tracker Apptopia. 
  • But cybersecurity experts are split on whether Zoom’s privacy and data procedures pose a risk to users. 
  • CEO Eric Yuan personally responded to accusations that Zoom was running “shady” protocols as part of its service.  
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Zoom, the $40 billion video-call firm, is enjoying a record performance as the coronavirus pandemic forces millions around the world to work from home. 

According to app tracking firm Apptopia, Zoom was downloaded more than 2 million times around the world on March 23, up from its average of 56,000 a day just two months earlier. 

Zoom, which went public in April 2018, hasn’t said how many new users it has added but indicated in an investor filing last month that soaring use would drive up its infrastructure costs. 

But as the firm’s services soar in popularity, Zoom has faced increased scrutiny from cybersecurity experts over its safety and privacy procedures. The company was just hit with a class-action lawsuit for allegedly sharing data with Facebook, while a report from The Intercept highlighted how Zoom doesn’t use end-to-end encryption on video meetings.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has twice been criticized for hosting “virtual cabinet” meetings with senior members of the government over Zoom, particularly on the second occasion, in which he shared the conference’s Meeting ID on Twitter. 

The UK government said there was a need for effective channels of communication in the “current unprecedented circumstances”, suggesting the PM would continue to use Zoom for meetings. 

But some experts have downplayed concerns, suggesting Zoom offers as safe a service as is available on the videoconferencing market. 

Charl van der Walt, head of research at Orange Cyberdefense, told Business Insider there was a need for “less hysteria” when discussing the pros and cons of services like Zoom. 

“Users sacrifice far more privacy using services like Facebook, WhatsApp, Gmail, Google Search, and even commercial operating systems, than they do by using Zoom,” he said. 

“In the end, I think we need less hysteria, and more considered and deliberate market-driven pressure on the vendor to get the balance between features, control, privacy and price that best serves the needs of the customer and society.” 

Oliver Pinson-Roxburgh, cofounder of cybersecurity firm Bulletproof, said Zoom had “upped its game” with regards to cybersecurity in recent months. 

“When they have been made aware of issues, they have responded quickly. It’s important to remember that all businesses are in a rush to keep working, and that means doing things they have never done before – at speed – and some might, and likely will, make mistakes.” 

When one Twitter user challenged Zoom over what he described as “shady” access protocols, the firm’s CEO Eric Yuan responded personally, saying the protocol had been a trade-off around ease-of-use.

He wrote: “Thank you for your feedback! We implemented [this protocol] to balance the number of clicks, given the limitations of the standard technology. 

“To join a meeting from a Mac is not easy, and that is why this method is used by Zoom and others. 

“Your point is well taken and we will continue to improve.” 

A spokesman for Zoom told Business Insider the company “does not sell user data of any kind to anyone.”

They added: “[We take] users’ privacy seriously, and we stand by our commitment to protect the privacy of our users’ data.”

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