Is Zoom Safe and Secure to Use Now? (Everything you Need to Know)

I believed I was not visible on Zoom… I thought no one on the Zoom call could see me. I thought I had muted the Zoom video.

– Jeffery Toobin

The Rise of Zoom

Zoom is the most popular video conferencing software on the web. In 2020– as the coronavirus pandemic took full swing– Zoom stocks rose by a whopping 500% as students began to learn virtually online and company employees migrated from working in the office to working from home.

Thanks to software like Zoom, we can continue to stay connected with friends, family and colleagues no matter the distance between us.

Is Zoom Safe and Secure to Use Now?

Yes, Zoom is fairly secure now. But only after a rise in scrutiny towards the previous security vulnerabilities of the software.

After Zoom blew up in popularity and gained millions of new users, there were numerous scandals involving “Zoom bombing“, which is when a zoom call is joined by an intruder who was not invited to the call. Hackers and internet trolls were able to use Google to find unprotected meetings, join them and disrupt them.

However, Zoom was quickly patched and updated to fix many of the security issues. Meetings are now password-protected by default and hosts now have more control over their Zoom accounts and who has access to their meetings. But even though the software was fixed, it didn’t mark the end of scandalous Zoom stories…

His Career was Doomed by Zoom

Jeffery Toobin on CNN

Jeffery Toobin was CNN’s chief legal analyst. During a Zoom call with his colleagues, Toobin “exposed himself” on camera, thinking that no one could see nor hear him. But he was wrong.

After serving his industry for 27 years as a staff writer for New Yorker magazine, he was fired for the lewd act. “I will always love the magazine, will miss my colleagues, and will look forward to reading their work,” he said as his final farewell.

How You Can Stay Safe

In a world where many office jobs have become work-from-home jobs, the line between work life and personal life has begun to shrink.

During an online video call, you are inviting your colleagues to peer into your home and judge you. If you tilt your camera only a few degrees to the side, your colleagues might see how dirty your room actually is. If your disgruntled partner walks into the room and shouts at you, your colleagues might hear it.

Knowing how to maintain privacy in a work-from-home environment is paramount, even if you never plan to “expose” yourself.

Zoom Best Practices

Do you use Zoom regularly for work meetings? Then these are the fundamental skills you should have before you hop on your next call:

  1. Know how to mute and unmute the audio, so that you can prevent colleagues from hearing your microphone.
  2. Know how to disable and enable the video, so that you can prevent colleagues from seeing you.
  3. Be careful when sharing your screen with others. Make sure you don’t have any unwanted documents or browser tabs open, or your colleagues will see!
  4. Don’t share your personal meeting ID publicly– only privately with individuals that you trust.

I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera… I apologize to my wife, family, friends and co-workers.

– Jeffery Toobin

You should understand that any audio or video that you transmit over the web- even to your trusted colleagues- can be recorded and permanently saved. Even if you have nothing to hide, there are certainly at least a few things that you don’t want to share with the world.

Waiting Rooms

There’s another neat way for the meeting host to ensure that only invited guests are allowed into the call: it’s called a waiting room. By enabling “Put Attendee in Waiting Room on Entry“, it ensures that all meeting participants are put into a temporary waiting room before they can join the call. This gives Zoom users another layer of protection from having uninvited guests join your call.

End-to-end Encryption for Meeting Rooms

With Zoom’s end-to-end encryption, you can feel the highest level of safety knowing that your meeting is secure.

Zoom already uses general encryption for all meetings, so you mostly don’t need to worry about a hacker intercepting your call over the network.

However, the Zoom web servers contain the encryption keys, meaning that it’s still possible– albeit very unlikely– for a someone with access to Zoom’s systems to acquire enough data to intercept a meeting.

To be frank– this is normal. Any time you sign up for an online platform, your data can usually be accessed by at least few people within the organization. For example, if you have a Facebook profile, then some database engineer at Facebook can likely access some part of that data. Same with Amazon, Google, and any tech company. It’s not that big of a deal because we trust that people in those positions are ethical.

But, sometimes trust isn’t enough, and you need a guarantee. That’s where Zoom’s end-to-end encryption comes in. Once you’ve enabled E2EE, then even the Zoom engineers themselves cannot hijack a meeting because the encryption keys are only known by the host and participants of the meeting. You can bet that government officials enable this feature.

You can look for the green shield icon on the upper left of the Zoom window to see if you have E2EE enabled.

How to know that you’re being recorded

Many of us value our privacy, but the simple act of joining a Zoom meeting can put our privacy in jeopardy. Calls can be recorded.

Although Zoom has the “red dot” indicator to notify you that the call is being recorded, there’s still an even more reliable way to know if you’re being recorded…

You may have noticed that many webcams- including the one built into laptop screens- have a light next to the camera. When the light is on, it’s an indicator that the camera is activated and the video is being transmitted to some software and/or people over the web.

Activated Webcam Light

But even then, you should not assume 100% of the time that the camera is off when the light is off. There have been cases of hackers exploiting a security flaw of software, and activating a user’s camera without the user noticing. Even some websites (with your permission), access your camera hardware.

A webcam cover will ensure that your laptop’s camera is physically blocked so that even a hacker cannot invade your privacy.

If you learn how to properly use your communication tools, you will drastically reduce the risk of suffering the same fate as Toobin. Nonetheless, maybe it’s a good idea to simply not expose yourself during a Zoom call.

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