Is Zoom Safe? What to Know

Is Zoom safe for your business or personal use?  With nearly 300 million users each day, it’s become ubiquitous that people have started using the name as a “verb” as in “Do you want to Zoom?”  During this period of social distancing, Zoom is great for businesses of any size, virtual teams, even friends who want to host a virtual wine tasting.  But, you have to wonder, amidst recent security concerns, if you should be using Zoom at all. 

What’s So Good About Zoom?

Zoom makes video conferencing nearly as ubiquitous as hot dogs at a baseball game.  It’s an affordable alternative to the expensive video conferencing solutions of the last decade.  Zoom even offers a free service that allows callers to get started with no cash outlay.  The software is feature-rich and includes:

  • User-friendly interface accessible on any device
  • Easy-to-use screen-sharing capabilities
  • Support for up to 1,000 participants
  • Calendaring integration with Outlook and Google
  • Built-in recording and transcription capabilities 
  • One-on-one messaging

Zoom is famously easy for even the most technophobic users.  But, as Zoom users grew exponentially, the company simply was not prepared for the security problems that ensued.

Is Zoom Safe?

That ease of use does come with a price.  The latest source of troublemaking for the bad-hats out there is something called Zoombombing.  What happens when you’re zoombombed?  An uninvited caller joins a Zoom meeting and contaminates the gathering with racial slurs, profanities, even offensive images such as pornography. 

Zoom’s growing pains have unleashed a variety of unforeseen issues, leaving unsuspecting users victims of widespread security breaches.  As it turns out, Zoombombing was just the start. 

There also were issues with:

  • A Zoom feature that, when enabled, turned any user’s computer into a local server
  • Routing data to Facebook, even when users were not logged into their accounts
  • Zoom’s apparent confusion over what really constitutes end-to-end encryption
  • An undisclosed number of video calls may have been “mistakenly” routed through China, where they inadvertently landed on Chinese servers 

Many of these problems outlined here have since been fixed.  Still, if you remain skittish due to Zoom’s security issues, you may want to check out other options.

Skype vs. Zoom

Some users favor Microsoft’s Skype.  But, just how safe is Skype in comparison?  The consumer version of Skype is free and also easy to use.  However, Microsoft reportedly listens to calls to improve the service.  Unlike Zoom, Skype does have E2EE (a type of encryption that can help keep your data out of the hands of scammers), but not for every call.  In fact, calls between Skype and a landline or mobile phone are not encrypted at all. 

Additionally, Skype has, in the past, been plagued by malware and phishing scams.  You are well-advised to avoid clicking on links from unknown users or from those you haven’t communicated with for a while. 

Want alternatives to Zoom and Skype?  Here are two more contenders.

Other Zoom Alternatives

FaceTime

Surprisingly enough, FaceTime has been end-to-end encrypted since the proverbial apple fell on Isaac Newton’s head.  The video quality is touted as excellent.  Plus, initiating a FaceTime call is just like making a phone call.  However, you must have fewer than 32 participants and everyone must use an iOS device.  

Webex

If robust security is your primary concern, Webex is worth a look.  Its parent company, Cisco, is a leader in security products.  It’s easy to create a whiteboard or change presenters on the fly.  Webex, however, does not support breakout meeting rooms or remote computer sharing.

How to Safely Use Video Conferencing

Any solution has its pluses and minuses.  The challenge is to determine which one offers enough security, as well as the right features for your purposes.  You may discover that Zoom is still your favorite choice. 

If you’d still like to use this popular video conferencing tool, familiarize yourself with its security options.  For example, the waiting room feature allows you to screen participants before they are allowed to enter.  And it’s easy enough to prevent Zoombombing by disabling the ability for participants to share their screens and muting all participants..  Be sure to keep your software updated, as Zoom developers are working diligently to release security patches that address user concerns. 

Keep in mind, too, that video conferencing risk may start before you ever fire up your laptop.  Be wary of video conference invitations that you receive, for instance, for a meeting or class from an unknown sender.  It could be an attempt to get you to install malware on your computer or, even worse, lure you into an internet-based scam.  You can always check out suspicious invitations using Spokeo.  Search a name or email address to verify that they are representing themselves accurately. 

Video conferencing keeps us collaborating and productive during those times when it’s impossible to meet face to face.  With a little effort and the right platform, you can keep your videoconferences safe and running smoothly.

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