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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday April 05 2020, @03:22AM   Printer-friendly
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:

Key Findings

  • 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.


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  • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Sunday April 05 2020, @04:58AM (2 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Sunday April 05 2020, @04:58AM (#979289) Journal

    A class action lawsuit would be appropriate. And, if the case doesn't succeed, then go to the legislators.

    Seriously, a software that claims to be secure should be locked up tighter than tight, by default. Any attempt to relax security should be greeted by disclaimers about the security of the software being compromised at your own risk. And, generations-old encryption would never qualify as "secure" in today's world.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 06 2020, @01:08AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 06 2020, @01:08AM (#979535)

    The problem is that "safe" and "secure" are non-specific and on a continuum of values. Therefore, flat, generic claims like that are probably going to be considered "puffery" and not subject to a false-advertising suit. The only one you could arguably get traction on is "encrypted," but even the worst of encryption schemes is still "encrypted," and "256-bit," if 256 bit encryption isn't used anywhere in the stack, as both of those could be construed as black-and-white, specific claims about the product. False advertising claims are for objective claims like "new engine" or "clean title," not subjective ones like "runs good" or "better than the competition."

    • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Monday April 06 2020, @01:37AM

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday April 06 2020, @01:37AM (#979543) Journal

      I think you've put your finger on the problem. Standards. Advertising should measure up to standards. In 2001, it would have been legitimate to advertise 128-bit encryption as "safe, secure encryption". In 2020, not so much. More, in today's world, it is rapidly becoming negligent to assign default passwords that will be reused again and again. Every instance of this software should force the generation of a new password for people needing to join the conference.

      Standards are important in all software, of course. Standards in advertising should also be a thing. Maybe Zoom isn't guilty of false advertising, but a strong case for negligence can be made here.

      We've finally beat Medicare! - Houseplant in Chief