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Zoom faces criticism over security, privacy

FBI warns of 'Zoom-bombing,' where teleconferences and online classrooms are hijacked
Posted at 4:43 AM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 08:16:55-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As the video conferencing platform Zoom becomes a part of daily life – for work meetings, virtual social gatherings and therapy sessions – it also has faced criticism around issues of privacy and security.

The FBI recently warned of "Zoom bombing," a term for what happens when hackers disrupt calls with pornographic images or threatening language.

It impacted an online class at University of Colorado Boulder, which was subjected to racist and inappropriate content.

Similarly, a Tampa-area mother reported a pornographic video popping up on her fourth grader's virtual classroom.

"I put my hand on the other side of the screen so he wouldn't see anything, but I could see the other kids' faces, and they were like shocked," Claudia Reyes told ABC Action News, a Scripps station.

Consumer Reports highlighted privacy concerns that go beyond Zoom bombing, like the fact that the company's privacy policy had leeway for videos and messages to be shared with third parties such as advertisers.

Zoom later updated its privacy policy, emphasizing that Zoom "has never sold user data in the past and has no intention of selling users' data going forward."

In a blog post, CEO Eric S. Yuan acknowledged with the influx of users, Zoom had "fallen short of the community's-and our own-privacy and security expectations."

However, there are steps users can take as a host and a participant to protect Zoom meetings and personal data.

Zoom recommends that hosts:

  • Password-protect meetings.
  • Set screen-sharing to "Host Only."
  • Allow only signed-in users to join.
  • Lock the meeting once all invited participants have joined.

In addition, Consumer Reports recommended turning on the recording disclaimer feature, which asks participants for consent when a recording starts.

The group also said that participants should:

  • Keep camera and microphone turned off unless they are speaking.
  • Look for the red dot on the window to see if the call is being recorded.
  • Consider using a virtual background.

Security experts said users should assume anything said or done during a Zoom call could be recorded and shared, so do not share or discuss confidential information on the platform.

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