Is Zoom Safe to Use?
With the majority of the world has been in quarantine and self-isolation for over a month now, by now, we’ve grown accustomed to working from home, and employing technology to communicate virtually with our colleagues and acquaintances, which includes everything from social media platforms, to hanging out on Google.
Having said that, Zoom- the online conferencing call application has skyrocketed in popularity, which is indicated by the fact that daily active users have increased by a staggering 67%. With millions of individuals in lockdown globally, Zoom has emerged as a highly lucrative tool, which also helps maintain a semblance of normalcy, amidst the uncertainty looming over our heads in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic.
By this point, whether you’ve wanted to or not, chances are that you’ve been the part of at least one conference call, class, or even a fitness session on Zoom. Although the online video conferencing application might be nothing short of a godsend if you’re a teacher, or a team manager, as the number of people using Zoom increases, so will the security problems associated with it.
Since Zoom is a fairly new application, most individuals tend to overlook the security loopholes present within the application and continue with their online conferencing business as per usual. The consequences of foregoing security on Zoom, however, can be dire, as is further made evident by the multiple stories circulating about “Zoombombing”, along with several teachers experiencing disruptive behavior, where users broadcast pornographic, hateful, or racist content in between sessions. Moreover, there have been several accounts of private meetings being hijacked by the presence of an intruder.
Responding to the massive number of complaints, Zoom did update its blog detailing some tips and tricks that might prove to be useful in fostering protection on Zoom, there is still a lot of vagueness surrounding safety on Zoom. Zoomboming aside, a recent report revealed that Zoom’s data is being routed through Chinese web hosting servers.
Shockingly, the parliament of the United Kingdom has been using Zoom for sensitive meetings. A follow up study by HostingData.co.uk, a web hosting reviews website based in London, found that even if parliament used other video conferencing applications, much of the call data would be routed through international data centers.
In an attempt to aid our readers, and to clear most of the doubts that they might be harboring, we’ve compiled an article that dives deep into the safety aspect of the popular online conference calling application, along with some tips to boost security.
Do You Really Need to Worry About Your Privacy While Using Zoom?
Despite not wanting to pay heed to any other worries other than the coronavirus right now, we believe that staying informed about the threats present on Zoom is highly critical to ensuring cybersecurity in the long run. Moreover, staying in the know-how of the vulnerabilities present on Zoom can also help prevent you from being the victim of a cybercrime, which is almost certain to add to your worries.
With that out of the way, Zoom, unfortunately, just like every other web-based platform, does consist of multiple entry points through which hackers and other cybercriminals can gain entry into a confidential online conference call. The greatest risk to users’ privacy is the fact that Zoom collects information, and permits other third-parties to collect data on their users as well.
Although the video vulnerability has been fixed, the tool that was used to identify the vulnerability can potentially allow anyone to manipulate a meeting code and gain entry into a confidential meeting. Along with the tool allowing access to a Zoom meeting, it has also been brought into light that malicious agents can rely on software to guess meeting ID numbers. Cybersecurity specialists have already devised a software program, called zWarDial, which can predict Zoom meeting IDs between nine and eleven digits.
Although zWarDial can only identify meeting IDs correctly, with an accuracy of about 14%, these statistics still lead to 100 meetings being compromised in the course of an hour. Once the program finds an activity meeting, it can then go on to discover the meeting link, date, and time, along with other crucial details such as the meeting organizer and the meeting topic.
How Can You Stay Safe on Zoom?
Up till this point, we might have drilled an image of Zoom as the harbinger of destruction to the already cybersecurity infrastructures that we’ve put up. Although that statement might be a tad bit (read: heavily) exaggerated, there’s a huge silver lining to look forward to.
Once you start taking security seriously and follow some steps, whether you’re hosting a Zoom meeting or attending one, you can navigate and make the most out of the popular online conferencing application
Safety Measures to Take as a Host
- Always be extremely cautious of the people that you’re sharing your public meeting link with. Try not to upload it on social platforms, which might result in untrustworthy individuals gaining access.
- As a precautionary step, you can also set up a password for participants to validate their entry into the meeting.
- Whilst screen sharing, make sure that you’re the only person in control by ensuring that “Host” is the only option selected from the “Who Can Share?” menu.
- Set two-factor authentication, and remove any unwanted participants from the meeting.
- Last, but certainly not least, if you encounter Zoombombing or any suspicious activity in your meeting, report it directly to Zoom.
Safety Measures to Take as a Meeting Attendee
- To ensure that your data isn’t being shared with untrusted parties, ask whether your host is recording the call. You can also determine this by seeing if there’s a small red dot on the screen.
- Ask your host as to their reasons for recording the call, and where your information is being stored. To ensure maximum security, recorded content should be stored on a secure server.
- If you wish to protect your room’s privacy, try using a virtual background to prevent sharing unnecessary information about your personal space, such as the posters you’ve put up in your room, etc.
- Ensure that your camera and microphone are turned off when you aren’t talking, so as to prevent unwanted attention to your actions and responses.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, with a monumental number of people locked up in their homes looking for answers, the Zoom application has now become a staple tool for many. Not only does it allow us to socially distance while being social, but it also helps maintain some sense of normal life.
Having said that, however, users can significantly amp up on their security on the online conferencing application, simply by adhering to the safety steps that we’ve mentioned above!
Rebecca James: Enthusiastic Cybersecurity Journalist, A creative team leader, editor of PrivacyCrypts. Follow her on twitter.