Zoom urges users to update app before May 30 as Govt mulls plea for ban over privacy concerns

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May 28, 2020 10:13 AM

Zoom has urged all users to update their Zoom app and web client even as the Government of India mulls a petition to ban the platform in the country over privacy concerns.

zoomZoom is set to upgrade its encryption to standard AES 256-bit GCM. (Photo credit: Reuters)

Zoom 5.0 will drop in almost all its entirety on May 30 bringing a slew of privacy-focused enhancements to the controversy-ridden video conferencing platform. Ahead of rollout, Zoom has urged all users to update their Zoom app and web client even as the Government of India mulls a petition to ban the platform in the country over privacy concerns.

Zoom is set to upgrade its encryption to standard AES 256-bit GCM, which is an improvement over the outgoing AES-256 ECB standard. This still isn’t the full-proof end-to-end encryption one would want from the service, but it’s surely better than what’s already there, at least on paper. GCM encryption will be fully enabled for all meetings which means Zoom 5.0 will be a “mandatory” update to join any Zoom meeting from May 30.

Zoom has been enabling passwords by default for most users for sometime now — while highlighting “clearly” that passwords are necessary to curb instances of Zoom bombings. Post May 30, all Zoom meetings, webinars, including previously scheduled events will require a password by default.

Zoom has been rolling out the Zoom 5.0 update gradually for users since April. The company says Zoom 5.0 is a “key milestone” in its 90-day plan to proactively identify, address, and enhance the security and privacy capabilities of its platform. The update, for instance, brings a new security icon that ties most of its security features together and lets you change them directly from your title screen — from locking meetings to restricting screen sharing to reporting “Zoom bombers.”

There’s no doubt that Zoom is proactively working on upgrading its privacy and security protocols but it’s a long road ahead. And things aren’t looking good from a pure “legislative” point of view — though user side, it seems to be a different story, since Zoom had a “record” April in India despite Government’s red flag over privacy.

On May 22, the Supreme Court had issued a notice to the Centre on a writ petition by a Delhi resident, to ban the use of Zoom for all official and personal purposes until an appropriate legislation was passed to safeguard users’ privacy. The Government should file a response in four weeks, the court had said.

Government officials as well as those who may use it for work purposes, have already been barred from video calling/conferencing through Zoom largely. The Ministry of Home Affairs had also issued an advisory for Zoom users in India in April to be mindful of their virtual meetings from prying eyes, deeming the video conferencing platform unsafe. The Government’s advisory had come just days after the country’s nodal cyber security agency, CERT-In, raised an alarm about how Zoom was prone to cyberattacks.

“Zoom takes user privacy, security, and trust extremely seriously. We have been focused on enhancing our commitment to security and privacy under our 90-day plan announced April 1st, and have made significant progress. For close to a decade we have been helping some of the world’s largest financial services companies, leading telecommunications providers, government agencies, universities and others stay connected in a safe and secure manner. Many of these entities have done exhaustive security reviews of our user, network and data center layers and confidently selected Zoom for complete deployment, and we actively engage with them [as we are with the Indian Central Government,] to provide them with any information they need to make informed decisions,” a Zoom spokesperson had said in response to the Supreme Court’s notice.

Also Read EXCLUSIVE: We spoke to Zoom about its privacy issues and how it plans to convince the Govt of India that it’s safe

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