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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 turgid on Sunday April 05 2020, @12:18PM (2 children)

    by turgid (4318) on Sunday April 05 2020, @12:18PM (#979357) Journal

    I just did a search for free video conferencing applications, and I found one called Jitsi [] which is allegedly FOSS and lets you host your own server. Does anyone have any experience with it?

    Starting Score:    1  point
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    Total Score:   2  
  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 05 2020, @01:15PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 05 2020, @01:15PM (#979366)

    Jitsi Meet is based on WebRTC. A two-person call will use peer-to-peer mode if the browser supports it. More participants are realyed through the central server; encryption is not end-to-end, but end-to-middle-to-end (but you can run your own server). If you have sufficient bandwidth to the server your client will send high-res, standard-res, and low-res frames and the server will dynamically relay one of those to other participants based on their bandwidth. By default room names are correct-horse-battery-staple style and you can optionally add a password to a room.

    (Personally, I'm use Jitsi and only Jitsi for my personal, small-group conferencing through this (my employer subscribed to webex last week for business use).)

  • (Score: 2, Informative) by webnut77 on Sunday April 05 2020, @06:34PM

    by webnut77 (5994) on Sunday April 05 2020, @06:34PM (#979454)
    Linux Weekly News has a review [] of Jitsi.