Business Insider Edition

Zoom is making its security features easier to access

Paayal Zaveri , Business Insider US
 Apr 09, 2020, 11:50 AM
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 18: Zoom founder Eric Yuan sp
Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images
  • Zoom is making its security features easier to access by consolidating them in a single button that users can access during a video call.
  • This is part of Zoom's plan to address the privacy and security of its app after facing massive criticism, as it saw a huge wave of new users due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The new security feature is meant to stop so called "Zoombombing" incidents, where hackers or trolls will enter random Zoom calls to share indecent messages or other spam.
  • Earlier Wednesday, the company also said Alex Stamos, Facebook's former security chief, will be working with Zoom as an outside consultant to help improve its security, privacy, and safety.
  • In an interview with the New York Times, CEO Eric Yuan said that he regrets not realising that Zoom could move from being a business only tool, to an app used widely for even non business purposes, and that privacy and security is now Zoom's top concern.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za. 

Zoom is taking more steps to improve the security of its video conferencing app, after facing massive criticism about the lack of privacy and security in its platform.

In order to make security features easier to access, the company is consolidating them in a single "security" button in the app. The button will guide users to a place where they can lock a meeting, enable a virtual waiting room for participants joining a call, remove participants, restrict who can share their screen, annotate content shared content, and chat in a call.

"We recognise that various security settings in the Zoom client, while extremely useful, were also extremely scattered," Zoom said in a blog post on Wednesday. "The addition of this persistent Security icon helps augment some of the default Zoom security features in your profile settings and enables Zoom users to more quickly take action to prevent meeting disruption."

This comes in response to so-called "Zoombombing" incidents, where hackers or trolls will enter random Zoom calls to share indecent messages or other spam. Zoombombing affected online classes, corporate gatherings, and even virtual Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

The concern was enough for the FBI to warn users about the problem, and the New York attorney general to send a letter to Zoom asking what new security measures the company has put in place, if any, to protect user privacy amid its huge surge in usage.

Additionally, Google, which has a competing video conferencing product, and Tesla banned employees from using Zoom on company computers.

This is Zoom's latest step to address the many privacy and security issues users found with the app after CEO Eric Yuan apologised last week said the company will take steps to address it. Earlier Wednesday, the company also said Alex Stamos, Facebook's former security chief, will be working with Zoom as an outside consultant. Zoom also formed a council of chief information security officers from other companies to share ideas on best practices.

Yuan has said that he regrets not realising that Zoom could move from being a business-only tool, to an app used widely for even non-business purposes.

In an interview with the New York Times, Yuan said "We were focusing on business enterprise customers...However, we should have thought about 'What if some end user started using Zoom'" for nonbusiness events, "maybe for family gatherings, for online weddings."

"The risks, the misuse, we never thought about that," he told the Times. He added that if not for a crisis that forced people to need a tool like Zoom in their everyday lives, Zoom probably wouldn't have thought about examining the security and privacy of the platform.

Zoom's user base as grown exponentially over the last few months, hitting 200 million daily active users as of the end of March. By contrast, at the end of December it had 10 million daily active users.

When the coronavirus pandemic started, Zoom made its premium features free for users in China and then for schools. However, Yuan said to the New York Times that the desire to open Zoom up to users who needed it sometimes surpassed its privacy protections.

Zoom is now making user privacy and security its top priority, Yuan added. "This is a turning point. We have to raise the bar," he said.

In addition to the new security features launched Wednesday, last week Zoom made passwords and virtual waiting rooms on by default. These two changes applied to free users, people who have personally upgraded their account to the first level of a paid plan, and K-12 education users.

It is also now hiding meeting room IDs from being displayed on the app itself when a call is going on.

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