The popular video conferencing app Zoom has been banned by the government of Taiwan from its activities due to security fears from China.
The Taiwan government decided to ban the use of the Zoom app due to security reasons after reports that some Zoom traffic was “mistakenly” routed through China, which does not recognize the country’s independence.
The Taiwanese government announced that public institutions should refrain from using products associated with security concerns, “such as Zoom”. However, it said that competitors like Google and Microsoft were acceptable.
Last week, researchers found that some traffic from Zoom was coursed through Beijing even when all participants on the call were in North America.
According to a research team from University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, Zoom has hundreds of employees in China, which “could also open up Zoom to pressure from Chinese authorities”.
Zoom claimed that the traffic was “mistakenly” routed through Beijing and the company issued an apology.
Despite Zoom’s explanation, Taiwanese authorities have instructed its public institutions to use other software. The government said they should use domestic solutions whenever possible.
However, in special cases, Google or Microsoft’s apps, namely Duo and Skype, were acceptable to use.
The Citizen Lab’s researchers also warned that despite its ease of use for businesses, Zoom uses non-standard encryption, which may not be suitable for governments or businesses worried about espionage. Average users should not be worried, however.
Zoom issues apology, promises to improve security
Zoom chief executive Eric Yuan issued an apology via a blog post for “falling short” on security issues and promised to address the concerns. The company will pause the development of any new features to concentrate on these issues.
According to Yuan, the use of the video conferencing app increased at a rate they did not expect prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
Currently, Zoom is being used by millions of people for work and leisure, as many countries implemented lockdowns to prevent the virus from spreading further.
Yuan mentioned: “As of the end of December last year, the maximum number of daily meeting participants, both free and paid, was approximately 10 million. In March this year, we reached more than 200 million.”
The Zoom boss admitted that despite “working around the clock” to support the influx of new users, the service had “fallen short of the community’s – and our own – privacy and security expectations”.
He wrote: “For that, I am deeply sorry. We did not design the product with the foresight that, in a matter of weeks, every person in the world would suddenly be working, studying, and socializing from home.”
Yuan added: “We now have a much broader set of users who are utilizing our product in a myriad of unexpected ways presenting us with challenges we did not anticipate when the platform was conceived.”
An online synagogue service has become a victim of a racist “Zoombombing”, in which racist accounts posted anti-Semitic abuse to congregants. Zoombombing refers to the activity of uninvited guests entering Zoom meetings.
A BBC employee who attended the meeting at a synagogue in London explained: “There were about 205 of us logged on – including lots of families with little kids – and suddenly the numbers went up to 243.”