REPORT: Work-From-Home Tool Zoom Is a Privacy ‘Disaster,’ Rife With Spies, ‘Bombers’
In this photo illustration a Zoom App logo is displayed on a smartphone on March 30, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. - The Zoom video meeting and chat app has become the wildly popular host to millions of people working and studying from home during the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

Use of the video conferencing application, Zoom, has exploded in recent weeks with coronavirus-related shutdowns now stretching from coast to coast in the United States and to most European and Asian countries. But experts warn that the convenient messaging tool comes with a price and it could be exposing corporate secrets to international raiders.

“In the last month, there was a 535% rise in daily traffic to the download page, according to an analysis from web analytics firm SimilarWeb,” according to the Guardian. “Its app for iPhone has been the most downloaded app in the country for weeks, according to the mobile app market research firm Sensor Tower. Even politicians and other high-profile figures, including the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, and the former US federal reserve chair Alan Greenspan, use it for conferencing as they work from home.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James sent a letter to Zoom on Monday, CNN reports, seeking information on whether the networking app “is taking appropriate steps to ensure users’ privacy and security,” after Zoom users began complaining about unwanted meeting attendees and “zoom-bombing,” where unwanted “visitors” hijack closed conference calls and classroom meetings to “shout profanities” and racial slurs, or drop pornography.

If random hackers can access company Zoom meetings, it figures, more nefarious characters can as well, leaving some companies, who are using Zoom almost exclusively during the coronavirus pandemic, open to corporate raiders, industrial spies, and even foreign governments. A flaw in the system, discovered recently, might even allow hackers to invade private networks through Windows computers, according to itNews.

Zoom says it’s improving user access to privacy controls, but that doesn’t satisfy critics who say Zoom also has a connection to Facebook, and could be sharing user data with the social media mega-company or third party advertisers.

In California, the company is facing class action lawsuits charging that Zoom “has failed to safeguard the personal information of the increasing millions of users of its software.” Those lawsuits, however, are still in their infancy, and there’s no indication, yet, whether the arguments have merit.

CNN reports that Zoom claims to provide “end-to-end encryption,” as well, but that it may be using that encryption system to collect even more data.

“Zoom uses something called transport encryption, which only secures the message while it’s en route from a video chat to the company’s servers,” one cybersecurity expert told the network. “That means Zoom effectively functions as a middleman in all video conversations on its platform and has access to those conversations.”

Zoom says its platform is secure.

“Zoom takes its users’ privacy, security, and trust extremely seriously,” a company spokesperson told the Guardian. “During the Covid-19 pandemic, we are working around the clock to ensure that hospitals, universities, schools and other businesses across the world can stay connected and operational.”

The FBI announced earlier this week that it will be launching its own investigation into Zoom privacy and, in particular, Zoom bombing. Until then, the federal government says users need to police security on their end,” The Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch reports, “including making meetings or classrooms on Zoom private, not sharing conference links on social media and managing screen-sharing options so only the host’s screen can be seen by others.”