Zoom now says free users will get end-to-end encryption; here’s what it means

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Published: June 18, 2020 12:00 PM

Zoom had previously said that only paying enterprise customers will get end-to-end encryption.

zoom, Zoom in China, china Zoom meetings suspended, china censorshipIn the coming days, Zoom will roll out an update that will add a toggle that call admins can use to enable or disable end-to-end encryption in calls.

Zoom has announced that all users will have access to end-to-end encryption starting as early as July. This means that both free and paying enterprise users will be able to make fully end-to-end encrypted video calls soon, with a beta rollout expected sometime in July. This is in contrast to Zoom’s earlier statement wherein the cloud-based video conferencing company had said that only paying enterprise customers will get end-to-end encryption.

Zoom founder and CEO Eric Yuan had previously said, “we also want to work together with the FBI, with local law enforcement, in case some people use Zoom for a bad purpose,” which is probably why giving end-to-end encryption to free users won’t be such a good idea since “anyone” can sign up with just an email address and start using the service. It seems Zoom has found a workaround to this “concern” now.

“To make this possible, free/basic users seeking access to E2EE will participate in a one-time process that will prompt the user for additional pieces of information, such as verifying a phone number via a text message,” Zoom said in a blog post. “Many leading companies perform similar steps on account creation to reduce the mass creation of abusive accounts. We are confident that by implementing risk-based authentication, in combination with our current mix of tools — including our Report a User function — we can continue to prevent and fight abuse.”

In the coming days, Zoom will roll out an update that will add a toggle that call admins can use to enable or disable end-to-end encryption in calls. Of course, this also means, those using PSTN (public switched telephone network) audio conferencing tools, which are basically third-party video endpoints, won’t be able to participate in these end-to-end encrypted Zoom calls.

Zoom recently upgraded its encryption to standard AES 256-bit GCM, which is an improvement over the previous AES-256 ECB standard. GCM encryption is now fully enabled for all meetings. The upcoming update will make Zoom calls fully secure and private, though Zoom still isn’t talking about how it plans to comply with government requests, especially when it has also confirmed that it’s soon to roll out another update that will allow it to remove or block users based on geography. Zoom’s upcoming feature will basically allow it to block you if your government thinks you’re involved in some illegal activity.

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