Zoom CEO admits ‘missteps’ on privacy and security

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan has acknowledged the privacy and security issues that plagued the video-conferencing app since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. He says that despite the issues, their intentions are good.

It looks like Zoom is on the path to redemption after hitting a few bumps since the start of the lockdown. In an interview with CNN on Sunday, the company’s CEO, Eric Yuan, had addressed the issues that had plagued the app, admitting that they had moved too fast and experienced some missteps.

With a background that says “we care” alongside a heart-shaped planet Earth, Yuan confessed his shortcomings as a CEO and how he feels obligated to win the trust that had crumbled away in the last few weeks.

According to him, Zoom has learned its lesson and now. They are focusing on privacy and security as they hold back on releasing new features on the app.

Massive user surge unforeseen

Because of the lockdown implemented in several countries, millions of people had turned to the video calling app in order to continue running their businesses, education, and their personal lives.

In a recent blog post, the chief executive had revealed that Zoom usage had ballooned overnight due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He revealed that back in December, Zoom’s usage was at 10 million, but beginning March, they had experienced a massive surge of over 200 million users. Because of this, they had been working around the clock to support the influx of users that had come to use their service.

Yuan had expressed that the company had strived to provide its users with uninterrupted services and ensure safety, privacy and security. However, he admits that they had failed to meet their clients’ expectations. Yuan says in the post:

“We recognize that we have fallen short of the community’s – and our own – privacy and security expectations. For that, I am deeply sorry.”

The CEO revealed that Zoom had been built primarily for large institutions with full IT support and that they did not foresee that in a matter of weeks, almost every person in the world would be working, studying, and socializing from the comfort of their own homes.

Privacy and security issues, rise of “zoombombing”

Zoom has met an overwhelming amount of criticism due to a diverse range of privacy issues including the following, among many others:

  • sending user information to Facebook
  • iOS profile sharing
  • malware injection
  • Windows password stealing
  • unreliable end-to-end encryption
  • videos and recordings of private meetings surfacing online

The most prevalent issue, however, is “zoombombing,” a term used when Zoom meetings are infiltrated by anonymous and often troublesome users that weren’t originally part or invited to the conference.

While at first, this was done as a prank or to troll the participants of a meeting, it then became a way for people to get away with hate speech and harassment. This has also led the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to probe and warn users against this new “hijacking” technique.

Investigations even discovered active message boards and private chats that organize Zoom harassment campaigns. The security concerns had led to a number of institutions banning the use of the app and opting to switch to other video-conferencing apps.

Addressing the issues: password protection, waiting rooms

Zoom is moving to fix the issues rampant within the video calling app.

Beginning April 5, all meetings conducted using the app will automatically have password protection, as well as “waiting rooms” that allow the hosts to select which among the people waiting for the meeting will be given access.

The password protection would require users to provide a password even if they already have the meeting ID. However, those that enter using a link will not have a need for a password and will automatically enter the meeting.

While this may seem like a small step for the app, it is a vital step the company must make in order to address bigger and more serious issues.

Images courtesy of Twitter/Eric Yuan, Zoom US

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