from the too-much-privacy dept.
[...] In an email dated March 28, SpaceX told employees that all access to Zoom had been disabled with immediate effect.
"We understand that many of us were using this tool for conferences and meeting support," SpaceX said in the message. "Please use email, text or phone as alternate means of communication."
[...] NASA, one of SpaceX's biggest customers, also prohibits its employees from using Zoom, said Stephanie Schierholz, a spokeswoman for the U.S. space agency.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Boston office on Monday issued a warning about Zoom, telling users not to make meetings on the site public or share links widely after it received two reports of unidentified individuals invading school sessions, a phenomenon known as "zoombombing."
Also consider that one way to claim to have "end to end encryption" is to simply re-define the term. Zoom Meetings Aren't End-to-End Encrypted, Despite Misleading Marketing:
Zoom, the video conferencing service whose use has spiked amid the Covid-19 pandemic, claims to implement end-to-end encryption, widely understood as the most private form of internet communication, protecting conversations from all outside parties. In fact, Zoom is using its own definition of the term, one that lets Zoom itself access unencrypted video and audio from meetings.
With millions of people around the world working from home in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus, business is booming for Zoom, bringing more attention on the company and its privacy practices, including a policy, later updated, that seemed to give the company permission to mine messages and files shared during meetings for the purpose of ad targeting.
Still, Zoom offers reliability, ease of use, and at least one very important security assurance: As long as you make sure everyone in a Zoom meeting connects using "computer audio" instead of calling in on a phone, the meeting is secured with end-to-end encryption, at least according to Zoom's website, its security white paper, and the user interface within the app. But despite this misleading marketing, the service actually does not support end-to-end encryption for video and audio content, at least as the term is commonly understood.
[...] Matthew Green, a cryptographer and computer science professor at Johns Hopkins University, points out that group video conferencing is difficult to encrypt end to end. That's because the service provider needs to detect who is talking to act like a switchboard, which allows it to only send a high-resolution videostream from the person who is talking at the moment, or who a user selects to the rest of the group, and to send low-resolution videostreams of other participants. This type of optimization is much easier if the service provider can see everything because it's unencrypted.
[...] "They're a little bit fuzzy about what's end-to-end encrypted," Green said of Zoom. "I think they're doing this in a slightly dishonest way. It would be nice if they just came clean."
The only feature of Zoom that does appear to be end-to-end encrypted is in-meeting text chat.
Be aware, too, of the potential for "zoombombing"; here is a selection of articles: 'Zoombombing': When Video Conferences Go Wrong, A Zoom Meeting For Women Of Color Was Hijacked By Trolls Shouting The N-Word , and Beware of 'ZoomBombing': screensharing filth to video calls.
(2020-03-28) Now That Everyone's Using Zoom, Here Are Some Privacy Risks You Need to Watch Out For
(2020-03-27) School Quits Video Calls After Naked Man â€˜Guessedâ€™ the Meeting Link
(2020-03-14) Student Privacy Laws Still Apply if Coronavirus Just Closed Your School
Hundreds of colleges and universities are suddenly shutting their doors and making a rapid switch to distance learning in an effort to slow the spread of novel coronavirus disease. Likewise, hundreds of K-12 districts nationwide have either already followed suit or are likely to in the coming days.
[...] Even when all of the immediate logistical and technical needs have been triaged and handled, though, there remains another complicating factor. While the United States doesn't have all that much in the way of privacy legislation, we do, in fact, have a law protecting some student educational data. It's called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA.
FERPA applies to both written and digital student records. For students under age 18, the provisions about what may (or must) be shared or not shared apply to their parents or guardians. Once a student turns 18, the protections transfer to them directly. The provisions also apply directly to any student enrolled in a college, even if that student is not yet 18 (such as in community college dual-enrollment programs for high school juniors and seniors).
The act prohibits "improper disclosure" to third parties of personally identifiable information (PII) derived from student records. Schools are not prohibited from allowing vendors access to information for the purpose of providing services—you can use third-party digital tools for administrative and educational purposes without being in violation of the law. But the school may then be held responsible if the vendors then do shady things with student data.
[...] Software platforms allowing videoconferencing, recording, and screen sharing have all seen a massive spike in use in recent weeks. Microsoft, Google, Slack, and Zoom are all offering discounts or extra features to businesses, groups, and individuals to help with the everything from home era in which we (hopefully temporarily) find ourselves. Not all of those tools, many of which are designed for enterprise use, are necessarily going to be compliant with educational regulations.
[...] In 2013, a group of students sued Google over its "creepy" data-mining from Google Apps for Education tools. Google ended the practice in 2014, only to be sued again in 2016 by a group of current and former university students alleging their data was collected and retained from their Google academic accounts in violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
A school in Norway has stopped using popular video conferencing service Whereby after a naked man apparently "guessed" the link to a video lesson.
According to Norwegian state broadcaster NRK, the man exposed himself in front of several young children over the video call. The theory, according to the report, is that the man guessed the meeting ID and joined the video call.
One expert quoted in the story said some are "looking" for links.
Last year security researchers told TechCrunch that malicious users could access and listen in to Zoom and Webex video meetings by cycling through different permutations of meeting IDs in bulk. The researchers said the flaw worked because many meetings were not protected by a passcode.
Now that you've finished choosing your custom Zoom background, mercifully sparing your fellow workers-from-home the sight of a growing pile of gym socks behind your desk, you might think you've got a handle on the conference call software du jour. Unfortunately, there are a few other data security considerations to make if you want to hide your dirty laundry.
Privacy experts have previously expressed concerns about Zoom: In 2019, the video-conferencing software experienced both a webcam hacking scandal, and a bug that allowed snooping users to potentially join video meetings they hadn't been invited to. This month, the Electronic Frontier Foundation cautioned users working from home about the software's onboard privacy features.
[...]Here are some of the privacy vulnerabilities in Zoom that you should watch out for while working remotely.
Whether you're using Zoom's desktop client or mobile app, a meeting host can enable a built-in option which alerts them if any attendees go more than 30 seconds without Zoom being in focus on their screen.
Over the past few weeks, Zoom's use has exploded since it became the video conferencing platform of choice in today's COVID-19 world. (My own university, Harvard, uses it for all of its classes. Boris Johnson had a cabinet meeting over Zoom.) Over that same period, the company has been exposed for having both lousy privacy and lousy security. My goal here is to summarize all of the problems and talk about solutions and workarounds.
In general, Zoom's problems fall into three broad buckets: (1) bad privacy practices, (2) bad security practices, and (3) bad user configurations.
Privacy first: Zoom spies on its users for personal profit. It seems to have cleaned this up somewhat since everyone started paying attention, but it still does it.
Now security: Zoom's security is at best sloppy, and malicious at worst. Motherboard reported that Zoom's iPhone app was sending user data to Facebook, even if the user didn't have a Facebook account. Zoom removed the feature, but its response should worry you about its sloppy coding practices in general:
"We originally implemented the 'Login with Facebook' feature using the Facebook SDK in order to provide our users with another convenient way to access our platform. However, we were recently made aware that the Facebook SDK was collecting unnecessary device data," Zoom told Motherboard in a statement on Friday.
Finally, bad user configuration. Zoom has a lot of options. The defaults aren't great, and if you don't configure your meetings right you're leaving yourself open to all sort of mischief.
Zoom has had a meteoric rise as a result of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. Jitsi and other useful teleconferencing tools are not very well known, though still widely used. Nearly all the buzz has been about the newcomer instead, but few have actually evaluated it. One group has. The Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary laboratory based at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, at the University of Toronto, has investigated Zoom briefly, covering both the technology, especially its lack of encryption, and the company itself:
- Zoom documentation claims that the app uses “AES-256” encryption for meetings where possible. However, we find that in each Zoom meeting, a single AES-128 key is used in ECB mode by all participants to encrypt and decrypt audio and video. The use of ECB mode is not recommended because patterns present in the plaintext are preserved during encryption.
- The AES-128 keys, which we verified are sufficient to decrypt Zoom packets intercepted in Internet traffic, appear to be generated by Zoom servers, and in some cases, are delivered to participants in a Zoom meeting through servers in China, even when all meeting participants, and the Zoom subscriber’s company, are outside of China.
- Zoom, a Silicon Valley-based company, appears to own three companies in China through which at least 700 employees are paid to develop Zoom’s software. This arrangement is ostensibly an effort at labor arbitrage: Zoom can avoid paying US wages while selling to US customers, thus increasing their profit margin. However, this arrangement may make Zoom responsive to pressure from Chinese authorities.
In a nutshell, throughout the mad rush to adopt teleconferencing software, due diligence has been largely abandoned and licenses left unread and software unevaluated. More scrutiny was needed, and still is needed, when acquiring and deploying software. That goes double for communications software.
- Elon Musk's SpaceX Bans Zoom over Privacy Concerns (2020)
- Now That Everyone's Using Zoom, Here Are Some Privacy Risks You Need to Watch Out For (2020)
- Working from Home: Lessons Learned Over 20 Years (2020)
- Conferencing Application Zoom Allows Remote Activation of Your Mic and Cam Without Questions (2019)
While this is quasi related to the recent Zoom article on SN, this is mostly about attempting to outlaw End To End Encryption.
Richard Blumenthal has been attacking internet services he doesn't understand since before he was even a US Senator. It has carried over into his job as a Senator, and was abundantly obvious in his role as a co-sponsor for FOSTA. His hatred of the internet was on clear display during a hearing over FOSTA in which he flat out said that if smaller internet companies couldn't put in place the kind of infrastructure required to comply with FOSTA, that they should go out of business. Blumenthal's latest ridiculous bit of legislation lose your Section 230 protections. And while Blumenthal likes to pretend that the EARN IT Act doesn't target encryption, he also lied about FOSTA and insisted it had no impact on CDA 230 (which it directly amended).
But Blumenthal has now taken his ridiculousness up a notch. Following the (legitimately concerning) reports that the suddenly incredibly popular videoconferencing software Zoom was not actually providing end-to-end encrypted video chats (despite its marketing claims), Blumenthal decided to step in and play the hero sending an angry letter to the company, while linking to the Intercept's original story about Zoom's misleading claims about encryption:
Millions of Americans are now using @zoom_us to attend school, seek medical help, & socialize with their friends. Privacy & cybersecurity risks shouldn't be added to their list of worries. I'm calling for answers from Zoom on how it handles our private data. https://t.co/CEg1P3T3S1 pic.twitter.com/Vl9XyvxZjb
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) March 31, 2020
So outlaw end to end encryption. When a company pretends to offer end to end encryption, but actually doesn't, then feign outrage over the lack of privacy; the privacy you want to deny everyone with your own legislation.
Are you confused yet?
In a statement late Friday, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan admitted to mistakenly routing calls via China.
"In our urgency to come to the aid of people around the world during this unprecedented pandemic, we added server capacity and deployed it quickly — starting in China, where the outbreak began," Yuan said. "In that process, we failed to fully implement our usual geo-fencing best practices. As a result, it is possible certain meetings were allowed to connect to systems in China, where they should not have been able to connect."
He did not say how many users were affected.
During spells of heavy traffic, the video-conferencing service shifts traffic to the nearest data center with the largest available capacity – but Zoom's data centers in China aren't supposed to be used to reroute non-Chinese users' calls.
This is largely due to privacy concerns: China does not enforce strict data privacy laws and could conceivably demand that Zoom decrypt the contents of encrypted calls.
Separately, researchers at the University of Toronto also found Zoom's encryption used keys issued via servers in China, even when call participants were outside of China.
[...] Zoom has faced multiple high-profile security issues in recent weeks as it struggles to cope with an unprecedented surge in traffic and new users.
Zoom did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment and clarification.