Google has banned its employees from using Zoom, one of the popular video conferencing app, on laptops and computers over privacy and security concerns. The news came after NASA and SpaceX restricted their employees from using Zoom as the U.S. law enforcement warned users about the security of the popular app.
BuzzFeed News reported that Google has sent an email to its employees last week about the ban. The search engine company warned employees not to use the Zoom desktop app on the company’s laptops as the app would be blocked starting this week. Zoom will not work because Google will blacklist it on the company’s servers as they do not meet the company’s security protocols.
Jose Castaneda, a spokesperson from Google, said in a statement that “Recently, our security team informed employees using Zoom Desktop Client that it will no longer run on corporate computers as it does not meet our security standards for apps used by our employees. Employees who have been using Zoom to stay in touch with family and friends can continue to do so through a web browser or via mobile.”
Zoom security issues
Ever since work from home has become popular around the world due to the coronavirus pandemic, companies have turned to applications like Zoom for remote coordination. Zoom has seen a surge in usage due to its ease of use and free offering, however, it also exposed its security loopholes which led to privacy concerns.
Recently, Zoom was under scrutiny as severe security vulnerabilities were found, including “Zoom bombing,” where a hacker can get access to a private Zoom meeting and then try to disrupt it, or even abuse or harass.
Moreover, Zoom was also found sending users data from the app to Facebook without users permission. An iOS version of the Zoom app was found to send analytical data to Facebook without users permission violating Facebook’s terms and conditions, even if the iPhone and iPad users don’t have a Facebook account, the Motherboard analyzed. Many apps use Facebook’s Software Development Kit (SDK) to send only required information to their Facebook developer account.
Privacy concerns have grown since Zoom lacks end-to-end encryption of meeting sessions. A group of researchers found that Zoom is generating some encryption keys through Chinese servers. An encryption key is a highly sensitive small part of data which can unlock a whole encrypted conversation and make it readable for anyone who has access to it.
The spokesperson from Google said that “We have long had a policy of not allowing employees to use unapproved apps for work that are outside of our corporate network.” Interestingly, Google does have its own Zoom competitor, Meet, which is a part of the G-Suite apps. Google also offers free Google Hangouts for users who don’t need corporate support.
An investor, Michael Drieu, has filed a class-action lawsuit against Zoom, accusing it of fudging details about its encryption, hiding security flaws, and disclosing personal information to Facebook.
Taiwan’s Department of Cyber Security has also asked the government agencies not to use Zoom. Pointing to its Cyber Security Management Act 2019, it said the legislation required all organizations not to use services linked to security issues. Furthermore, information and communication systems provided by government-contracted suppliers were asked to prioritize.
Zoom hires former Facebook security head
A move by Google to ban Zoom drove a global backlash against the company. CEO of Zoom, Eric Yuan, has now hired ex-Chief Security of Facebook, Alex Stamos, as an advisor of the matter.
In late March, Stamos gave Zoom a clear 30-day security plan saying that Zoom needs to fix its core security, cryptographic design, and infrastructure security issues. Stamos said he will be working with Zoom’s engineering team for all these concerns and would be paying for consultancy.
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Featured image: DPA