from the look-before-you-leap dept.
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)
A vulnerability in the Mac Zoom Client allows any malicious website to enable your camera without your permission. The flaw potentially exposes up to 750,000 companies around the world that use Zoom to conduct day-to-day business.
[...] This vulnerability allows any website to forcibly join a user to a Zoom call, with their video camera activated, without the user's permission.
On top of this, this vulnerability would have allowed any webpage to DOS (Denial of Service) a Mac by repeatedly joining a user to an invalid call.
Additionally, if you've ever installed the Zoom client and then uninstalled it, you still have a localhost web server on your machine that will happily re-install the Zoom client for you, without requiring any user interaction on your behalf besides visiting a webpage. This re-install 'feature' continues to work to this day.
[...] According to Zoom, they will have a fix shipped by midnight tonight pacific time removing the hidden web server; hopefully this patches the most glaring parts of this vulnerability. The Zoom CEO has also assured us that they will be updating their application to further protect users privacy.
Proof of concept:
WARNING: Clicking this link starts a Zoom video call, no questions asked!
Dustin Kirkland has written a blog post about telecommuting for over two decades. He goes into a lot of detail about his particular setup. He closes asking what other people's remote offices look like and what, if anything, he missed.
In this post, I'm going to share a few of the benefits and best practices that I've discovered over the years, and I'll share with you a shopping list of hardware and products that I have come to love or depend on, over the years.
I worked in a variety of different roles -- software engineer, engineering manager, product manager, and executive (CTO, VP Product, Chief Product Officer) -- and with a couple of differet companies, big and small (IBM, Google, Canonical, Gazzang, and Apex). In fact, I was one of IBM's early work-from-home interns, as a college student in 2000, when my summer internship manager allowed me to continue working when I went back to campus, and I used the ATT Global Network dial-up VPN client to "upload" my code to IBM's servers.
If there's anything positive to be gained out of the COVID-19 virus life changes, I hope that working from home will become much more widely accepted and broadly practiced around the world, in jobs and industries where it's possible. Moreover, I hope that other jobs and industries will get even more creative and flexible with remote work arrangements, while maintaining work-life-balance, corporate security, and employee productivity.
See similar article at the BBC.
How much, if any, can you work from home? What tools are on your "gotta have it" list? What cautions, suggestions, and resources do you suggest for your fellow Soylentils?
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.
[...] 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.
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.