By Ezekiel Olande, Digital consultant

Zoom! It’s become the hottest phrase since the onset of telecommuting that was brought about by the now new normal. In a bid to social distance as part of the mitigation measures advised by the Government and WHO, video conferencing has become the go to collaboration tool. Zoom has almost become the next best thing after face to face meetings from cabinet, to staff, church, weddings, funerals, family get togethers . . . add onto the list!

Cool right? But is it?

Zoom has been hit by a number of security breaches ever since it burst into the scene and the parent company has had to scramble to secure it from hackers. We have heard of the phrase “Zoom Bombers” (akin to photo bombing) that was coined to refer to unwanted guests showing up on your Zoom calls and doing all manner of things including a strip-tease at a bible study video call. And that’s not the worst of it! Zoom’s privacy settings discovered that users were susceptible to their personal information being used to target ads. User information is also reportedly being leaked because of an issue with how Zoom groups contacts. More on this later…

But how did Zoom become so popular so suddenly? I am sure most of us only heard of it early this year and now it has become a household name! I mean what happened to Skype, Lync, Webex, Go To Meetings, Hangouts?

Zoom’s main selling point, according to The Verge, is the free 40-minute conference calls with up to 100 attendees. And, it’s easy to use — people don’t need a login to access a meeting — and the interface is relatively intuitive. These features blew most if not all the competition right out of the water albeit with serious security challenges to the users. The barriers to entry are so low, and the coronavirus pandemic so unusual, that Zoom is suddenly in the spotlight as a crucial tool for many.

According to market intelligence firm SensorTower, first-time installations of Zoom’s mobile app have skyrocketed 728% since March 2, 2020! And according to Reuters, they currently pull in 200 Million video calls daily globally up from only 10 Million in December and this included both paid and free subscribers! These numbers are staggering!

With this kind of exponential growth, it is not surprising that Zoom has had serious security and privacy breaches of late. We have seen tech giants such as Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX banning its employees from using the Zoom app, Google also banned its employees from installing Zoom on their company laptops (which is quite telling by the way) not leaving behind Microsoft which has banned its employees from using the app.

Locally, we have seen many learning institutions falling victim to Zoom Bombing during class sessions and this has led to the schools looking for other safer options. The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) and telecommunications giant Safaricom both recently weighed in on the safety discussion by providing safety guidelines to Zoom users.

Zoom on their part came out and admitted to their vulnerabilities and have promised to focus on making it safer. The fact that it is even being used in most countries for remote learning has made the issue more critical. Their CEO, Eric Yuan admitted “We recognize that we have fallen short of the community’s – and our own – privacy and security expectations, for that, I am deeply sorry.”

So how then can you keep your Zoom meetings secure from the prying eyes of Zoom bombers? Here are some tips from a recent Zoom blogpost (alongside our edits):

  • When you share your meeting link on social media or other public forums, it makes your event … extremely public. ANYONE with the link can join your meeting. British PM Boris Johnson recently posted a screenshot of his cabinet meeting complete with the meeting ID on Twitter!
  • Set up your own two-factor authentication:You don’t have to share the actual meeting link! Generate a random Meeting ID when scheduling your event and require a password to join. Then you can share that Meeting ID on Twitter but only send the password to join via DM. Or, do not share the ID publicly unless it’s a public meeting!
  • One of the best ways to use Zoom for public events is to enable the Waiting Roomfeature. Just like it sounds, the Waiting Room is a virtual staging area that stops your guests from joining until you’re ready for them hence allowing you to carefully monitor who gets let in.

At the end of the day, Zoom still works out pretty well for most organizations, schools and individuals looking to host video calls without any hassle! And yes you ought to be careful not to share any information that could compromise your security. If you feel like this is not the best fit for your organization, there are a host of other apps that you could explore including Google Meet that was recently made free in a bid to offer a competitive option to Zoom.

 

Drop us a mail on insights@alericonsulting.com and we will be in touch!

 

Pictures courtecy of pinterest.com and unsplash.com

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