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April 16, 2020 · OPINION

Zoom has vulnerabilities that you should consider

Stock Photo
By Laurence Rodea
Warrenton

Zoom, the popular video conferencing app, has been a godsend in the era of social distancing and COVID-19. But it also puts your privacy at risk.

Several cybersecurity firms have recently published known risks inherent to this particular service, just this week we learned that the “hack” that allows the bad guys to covertly hijack sessions with “ROOT authority” (full permission), being posted for sale on the dark web for a measly $500,000.

A quick search will yield pages of examples where hackers hijacked classroom sessions and posting lewd content and/or firing off offensive racist rants. Security researchers released report after report on newly discovered vulnerabilities including leaked emails and bugs that might have allowed hackers to access webcams;

It’s for this reason that the federal government, including the Department of Defense, have banned its use without exception and the company has an active investigation by the U.S. attorney general.

Now given all this, I’m baffled by school Superintendent David Jeck’s endorsement and push to use Zoom for distance learning. We’ve received a number of emails from our kids’ teachers urging us to approve our kids’ participation of virtual lessons using Zoom.

It’s important to note that Zoom isn’t the only option for online collaboration with products like WebEx, MS Teams and Houseparty. Zoom has reported its priority response to patching vulnerabilities as soon as reported.

I’m not saying Zoom is a bad product; it’s not Frankly it’s very easy to use, relatively affordable and has a very good chance of being the Amazon of video conferencing and collaboration needs. This will only happen if Zoom quickly hardens the software and dedicates an equal amount of resources to security as it does to usability

For now, I’ll follow the recommendations of cybersecurity and cybercrime agencies by not using or allowing its use where my kids are concerned. I hope our superintendent, school board, teachers and administrators do the same and take some time to find a safe and secure alternative.
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DonkeyFarmer · April 20, 2020 at 9:07 pm
Zoom is a good interface that can be made more secure if you follow the advice of Jim and others. Nothing is going to be 100%.
Jim Griffin · April 17, 2020 at 12:41 pm
In fact, Zoom can be hardened through proper configuration (enabling waiting rooms, selectively admitting entrants, etc -- much as we would a real school).

Our schools' Zoom choice is neither irrational nor ill-informed -- vulnerabilities occur with any interconnect. I've had Zoom calls with top privacy and security organizations this week, proof experts use Zoom while we all learn to cope with new issues.

Naturally, there is choice. Discord, Microsoft and others compete with Zoom. All have issues to address over time, but I repeat: Top security and privacy pros demonstrably choose Zoom for the breadth of its adoption and ease of use. Your mileage may vary.

As regards your next to last paragraph, Zoom updated this week; Use the latest version. Check the configuration (this version auto-defaults to more secure settings). If you can't trust your hardware/software, don't Zoom -- use the telephone (which has its own issues, as does driving to school).
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