• Antonio Smithberg

Zoom: Privacy Concerns and “Zoombombing”

As we endure during these times of uncertainty we are trying to retain a sense of normalcy. This means working and attending classes remotely to still achieve some productivity. One of the applications that helps ease this process is Zoom. According to zoom.us, Zoom Video is an American remote conferencing service that provides remote conferencing which combines video conferencing, online meetings, chat, and mobile collaboration. Since the major coronavirus quarantine Zoom has established itself as the dominant tool for communication. It is currently the most popular Apple and Android application in the world, and its stock price has more than doubled since late January. With this growth in popularity and demand has come a large amount of scrutiny pertaining to its privacy practices.

Per vox.com, “On Monday Zoom found itself the recipient of not just a letter from New York Attorney General Letitia James but also a class action lawsuit, both over privacy issues that have been brewing since even before the coronavirus existed but which gained momentum once seemingly everyone began using it.”

Before this pandemic had even begun, Zoom had faced a bevy of issues with protecting its user’s privacy. One of the most publicly known issues was vulnerability with the Zoom application on Mac computers. This vulnerability allowed any website to forcibly join a user to a Zoom call, with their video camera activated, without the user’s permission.

This meant that if you’ve ever installed the Zoom client and then uninstalled it, you still have a localhost web server on your machine that will re-install the Zoom client for you, without requiring any user interaction on your behalf besides visiting a webpage.

This “re-install feature” has since been fixed, however, a new problem has been recently been brought to the forefront, “Zoombombing.” “Zoombombing is when Zoom meetings are joined by an unknown uninvited person who disrupts meetings. The public Zoom events that have been targeted must shut down completely to get the person to leave. There are ways to mitigate this problem such as password protecting meetings but the fact that it is so easy for anyone to join and disrupt a meeting is cause for major concern.

Since “Zoombombing” has become so prevalent, this week the FBI issued a news release to warn people of the threat. According to cnn.com, a spokesperson for Zoom told CNN in an email on Thursday that the company is aware of the FBI's recent press release and "appreciates all efforts to raise awareness around how to best prevent these kinds of attacks."

The company said it began "actively educating users on how they can protect their meetings and help prevent incidents of harassment" on March 20.

@usf_encounter tweets: