Taiwan is taking cybersecurity seriously by banning the use of Zoom in government

Zooming too fast.
Zooming too fast.
Image: Reuters/Dado Ruvic
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The bad news just doesn’t stop for Zoom.

In response to the recent barrage of security and privacy concerns about the video-conferencing software, Taiwan today banned all official use of the software.

In a statement (link in Chinese), Taiwan’s executive branch said it had informed all government agencies to cease the use of “products with information security concerns, such as Zoom.” Instead, it recommended that officials use conferencing software provided by other companies, such as Google and Microsoft.

It is one of the first governments to completely bar the use of Zoom, following similar bans by SpaceX and NASA, and the New York City department of education. Australia today also enacted a ban (paywall) on parliamentarians and senators using the service, following a similar move by the Australian Defence Force.

Usage of Zoom has skyrocketed in recent weeks as companies and governments around the world have switched to working from home amid the coronavirus pandemic, and as schools have shifted to online classes. Its daily user base grew from 10 million in December to more than 200 million last month, according to the company.

But with that rapid growth came increased scrutiny, and in recent days researchers and journalists have pointed out glaring security flaws with the product. For example, though Zoom describes its service as secured by end-to-end encryption, tech publication the Intercept found that it in fact has access to unencrypted video and audio from meetings. Meanwhile, Citizen Lab, a research group based at the University of Toronto, found that encryption keys were transmitted to servers in China. The researchers also noted that Zoom employs around 700 staffers based in China to develop software, an arrangement that “may make Zoom responsive to pressure from Chinese authorities.”

In a blog post last week, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan said he takes these security concerns “extremely seriously” and the company is working to remedy them as quickly as possible. In a subsequent blog post, Yuan admitted that Zoom had “mistakenly” routed calls to China. And while Yuan sounded a contrite note (paywall) in an interview last Friday with the Wall Street Journal, saying he “really messed up as CEO,” in the last few days he has retweeted articles about the “coordinated corporate pile-on” against Zoom and exhorted people to “Get off Zoom’s case.

In a statement to Quartz, Zoom said “a large number of global institutions” have chosen to use its video-conferencing software after doing “exhaustive security reviews” of the product. It added that it is in touch with governments around the world and “providing the information they need to make informed decisions about their policies.”