Popularity Of Zoom Brings Scrutiny


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Day 07 – Stay Home Order

As of April 2, more than 80% of use the US populations are under stay-home orders and half the planet is on lock down as of Friday morning. As most people are working and connecting from home through video conferencing software Zoom, its popularity is reported to be exploded. The Forbes writes in its cover story headline “All Eyes on Zoom: How the At-Home Era’s Breakout Tool is Coping with Surging Demand – And scrutiny“.

The Zoom is an ‘American remote conferencing services company headquartered in San Jose, California. It provides a remote conferencing service that combines video conferencing, online meetings, chat, and mobile collaboration’.

Popularity of Zoom

It’s reported that “around 90,000 schools in 20 countries were among those using Zoom as people worldwide have increasingly turned to the platform for everything from work meetings to happy hours”. In March this year, Zoom reached more than 200 million daily meeting participants, according to the Zoom CEO Eric Euan. This increase in business has exposed its vulnerabilities (hackers, zoombombing, etc) in Zoom video communications systems and has been reported to be a target for lawmakers, hackers and privacy advocates.

The Mozilla Foundation blog has posted a helpful guide titled Tips to Make Your Zoom Gatherings More Private with both free & paid versions.

Skype Trying Catching Up

The Verge reporter Ashley Carman reports that Skype is trying catching up with Zoom by ‘reminding people that they don’t need the app or an account to make a call’ and is trying to make it as easy as possible to use its video calling software. It has introduced a “simple and hassle-free way to connect with people” with guide Learn how to use the Meet New Feature in Skype.

Privacy Concerns

The Vice reporter Joseph Cox writes that ‘Zoom iOS App sends data to facebook even if people have no facebook account’. According another report, “the company also had a class-action lawsuit filed against it this week by a user following reports that Zoom was sending some analytics data to Facebook”. In a new Post article technology reporter Drew Harwell writes that “thousands of Zoom video calls left exposed on open Web, which include personally identifiable information and deeply intimate conversations, recorded in people’s homes”. According the Post report, most of these video files ‘appear to have been recorded through Zoom’s software and saved onto separate online storage space without a password’. A recent article on The Intercept by its reporter Micha Lee reveals flaws in Zoom’s encryption and writes “Zoom’s Encryption Is ‘Not Suited for Secrets’ and Has Surprising Links to China, Researchers Discover” in its head line.

Zoom Under Scrutiny

Because of popularity of Zoom, it is reported be great attraction for hackers & reports of VTC hijacking (also called “Zoom-bombing”) are emerging nationwide, according to FBI website.

FBI Warns of Teleconferencing and Online Classroom Hijacking During COVID-19 Pandemic. The FBI has received multiple reports of conferences being disrupted by pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language.

FBI Alert

Its reported that ‘US Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) have sent letters to Zoom this week seeking information on how the company was addressing its cyber and privacy vulnerabilities’.

The millions of Americans now unexpectedly attending school, celebrating birthdays, seeking medical help, and sharing evening drinks with friends over Zoom during the Coronavirus pandemic should not have to add privacy and cybersecurity fears to their ever-growing list of worries.

Richard Blumenthal , US Senator (source: The Hill Blog)

Zoom CEO Responds

The Zoom CEO Eric Yuan writes in the blog that “We did not design the product with the foresight that, in a matter of weeks, every person in the world would suddenly be working, studying, and socializing from home. We now have a much broader set of users who are utilizing our product in a myriad of unexpected ways, presenting us with challenges we did not anticipate when the platform was conceived.”

For the past several weeks, supporting this influx of users has been a tremendous undertaking and our sole focus. However, we recognize that we have fallen short of the community’s — and our own — privacy and security expectations. For that, I am deeply sorry.

Eric Yoan, Zoom CEO (Source: Zoom blog)

In Forbes cover story, Yuan acknowledges that ‘much of these problems are of his own making. I think we made a mistake, but the intentions were good’. How to use Zoom safely can be found in this guide – Safety and Security While Video Conferencing with Zoom.

Current US Death Tally

The death toll in the United States has passed 6,000, according to the latest CNN Covid-19 tracking tally. According to the CNN report, “a total of 6,057 coronavirus-related deaths have been reported in the country as of early Friday morning on the East Coast. Wyoming is the only state not reporting a death from coronavirus.”

Coronavirus Watch

The MDH latest tally (as of April 2), the confirmed case in Minnesota is 742 (out of 22,394 tested) from 56 counties with 18 deaths. One hundred and thirty eight of the confirmed cases are hospitalized. According to Johns Hopkins database (as of April 3, 6 a.m.) there are 245,573 confirmed covid19 infection with 6,058 deaths. Globally the covid19 virus has infected 1,030,628 with 54,137 deaths