US Senate tells members not to use Zoom

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The United States Senate has become the last organization to tell its members not to use Zoom due to concerns about data security on the videoconferencing platform, which boomed during the coronavirus crisis.

The Senate sergeant-at-arms warned all senators against using the service, according to three people informed of the opinion.

One person who saw the Senate warning said that he had told each senator’s office to find an alternative platform to use for remote work while many parts of the United States remained blocked. But the person added that he had stopped officially banning the company’s products.

Zoom is fighting to stem a public and regulatory backlash on lax confidentiality practices and the growing harassment on the platform that has caused its stock to plummet. The company’s shares fell more than 25% from their peaks just two weeks ago to trade at $ 118.91.

Zoom was forced to publicly apologize last week for making misleading statements about the strength of its encryption technology, which aims to prevent third parties from seeing user data.

The company also admitted to having “mistakenly” routed user data across China in the past month to cope with a dramatic increase in traffic. Zoom has two servers and a research and development branch of 700 people in China. She said information about user meetings would remain in the country of origin.

The revelations have sparked complaints from US senators, many of whom have urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the company has violated consumer protection laws. It also prompted the Taiwanese government to ban Zoom for official business.

The FBI warned last month that it had received reports that teleconferences were being hacked by people sharing pornographic messages or using abusive language – a practice that has become known as “Zoombombing”.

A company spokesperson said, “Zoom is working 24 hours a day to ensure that universities, schools and other businesses around the world can stay connected and operational during this pandemic, and we take privacy, security and user trust very seriously.

“We appreciate the awareness we have received on these issues from various elected officials and we look forward to engaging with them.”

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However, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in a note to government cybersecurity officials that the company is actively responding to the concerns and understanding their seriousness, according to Reuters. The Pentagon has told the Financial Times that it will continue to allow staff to use Zoom.

The Senate decision follows similar decisions by companies, including Google, which decided last week to prevent employees from downloading the app to work.

“Recently, our security team informed employees using the Zoom Desktop Client that it will no longer work on corporate computers because it does not meet our security standards for the applications used by our employees,” said Jose Castaneda , Google spokesperson. However, he added that employees who wanted to use Zoom to stay in touch with family and friends on their mobile or via a web browser could do so.

Google’s decision was first reported by BuzzFeed.

Zoom has attempted to stem the tide of criticism in recent days. The company said on Wednesday that it had hired Alex Stamos, the former chief security officer of Facebook, as an external security consultant, a few days after announcing that it would redirect its engineering resources to tackle the security and privacy issues.

Additional reporting by Katrina Manson

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