Zoom security concerns

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Concerns are being raised about a video-conference software application that is being used by many pipe bands and tutors in recent weeks amid the Covid-19 lockdown.

Yesterday it was reported that Singapore has temporarily banned Zoom from being used by its teachers due to “rising concerns and reports of troll attacks”. The country’s Ministry of Education announced that it would be launching inquiries into several incidents where some students were reportedly exposed to lewd images and comments during live-streamed sessions of classes.

New York city issued a similar ban last Monday among its digital classrooms, citing still the widespread cybersecurity issues. Zoom’s use has also prompted warnings from the FBI and demands for increased user privacy from the New York Attorney General. A privacy complaint in America last year alleged that Zoom “intentionally bypassed its web conferencing service to bypass browser security settings and remotely enable a user’s web camera without the knowledge or consent of the user.” Further, the governments of Taiwan and Germany are now reportedly restricting their employees from using Zoom. Google has barred the desktop version for the company’s use until further notice.

Zoom was also dropped last week by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence due to security concerns.

In Scotland, at least one local authority, Perth & Kinross, has effectively banned its teachers from using the software, saying that it does not have the necessary safeguarding and data protection in place. One head teacher in Perth & Kinross contacted Bagpipe.news to say: “The IT guys have told us not to use it as they say it has a lack of safeguard measures, regardless of how it’s used.”

The software’s popularity has risen hugely in recent weeks. It can host up to 100 participants for 40 minutes for free, making it attractive for large groups to use in teaching situations such as online pipe band practices. However, the software harvests as much user data as possible – including name, physical address, email address, phone numbers, job information, Facebook profile, computer and phone specifications, IP address and more.

According to an investigation last month, Zoom apps downloaded on iPhone and iPads also send users’ device data to Facebook — even from people who don’t have an account.