Hackers target major video-conferencing platforms, Zoom

illustration by Luc Stringer

With video-conferencing platform Zoom’s rise to prominence in a world of distancing comes numerous security issues. In the past few weeks, more than 500,000 hacked Zoom accounts have surfaced on the dark web, according to cyber-security organization Cyble.

Cyble told news organization Bleeping Computer that they found 530,000 Zoom accounts on the dark web selling for as little as $0.002. This comes in addition to the appearance of “Zoom bombing” in the past few weeks, first reported by the FBI, in which hackers have been able to access private calls on Zoom and show the attendees pornographic and hate images.

Soon after the first “Zoom bombing” incidents, Eric Yuan, founder and CEO of Zoom, made it clear that security was a top priority. He pledged to use the next three months to address any issues in the programming. In an interview with CNN, Yuan said Zoom simply was not prepared for its exponential growth from startup to communication giant.

“During the COVID-19 crisis, we moved too fast,” Yuan said in the interview with CNN. “We had our missteps.”

It appears that Zoom has already begun to put new security parameters in place. Zoom’s website www.zoom.us/security claims that Zoom now has pre-conference security settings and waiting rooms, as well as a security panel during the call, although it is unknown when exactly these measures went into effect.

Kevin Hirahara, information security manager at California Baptist University, said that Zoom does not yet have the power and resources of its primary competitor and CBU’s new method of online class periods – Cisco’s WebEx.

“Zoom (as a company) hasn’t yet made it to the same level as the beast that Cisco is; Zoom doesn’t yet have the maturity of team members nor the reach of resources,” Hirahara said. “It was inevitable – when the world began to rapidly adopt the use of Zoom in such a short period of time, security issues would quickly come to light.”

Katie O’Daniel, freshman behavioral sciences major, said Zoom’s security issues are scary.

“It frustrates me that companies like Zoom don’t make my privacy more of a priority,” O’Daniel said.

Yet, Zoom continues to grow in popularity. Hirahara said he believes it is a more accessible application. After all, it was started by a former Cisco team member who sought to make a better program than WebEx.

“Zoom is a good product because it is pretty easy to use and is fairly reliable,” Hirahara said.

Although Chang-Hyun Bae, sophomore international business major, said he simply wants to be done with online classes, he also said he believes Zoom is a better program than WebEx.

“Zoom is a lot smoother than Webex,” Bae said.

Although Zoom has security issues that it needs to address, Hirahara reminds students that their judgment is just as important as software choice.

“I do believe Zoom may have gotten a bit of misinterpretation by the public of their security issues. There are (better) practices on how to use Zoom, just like there are best practices with nearly every other software platform that is available,” Hirahara said. “The same situation could happen with WebEx, as well – it’s just that people who use WebEx tend to be more aware of how to use the product.”

For now, calling friends and family seems to be safe. But to continue their rise to prominence, Zoom will have to convince the public that its platform is safe and that privacy is protected.

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