Taiwan tells agencies not to use Zoom on security grounds

By Supantha Mukherjee and Ben Blanchard

(Reuters) – Taiwan’s cabinet has told government agencies to stop using Zoom Video Communications Inc’s conferencing app, the latest blow to the company as it battles criticism of its booming platform over privacy and security.

Zoom’s daily users ballooned to more than 200 million in March, as coronavirus-induced shutdowns forced employees to work from home and schools switched to the company’s free app for conducting and coordinating online classes.

However, the company is facing a backlash from users worried about the lack of end-to-end encryption of meeting sessions and “zoombombing”, where uninvited guests crash into meetings.

If government agencies must hold video conferencing, they “should not use products with security concerns, like Zoom”, Taiwan’s cabinet said in a statement on Tuesday. It did not elaborate on what the security concerns were.

The island’s education ministry later said it was banning the use of Zoom in schools.

“Zoom is in communication with governments around the world and is focused on providing the information they need to make informed decisions about their policies,” a company spokesperson said.

The company said a large number of firms and government agencies have done exhaustive security reviews before using its platform.

Zoom has been responsive to concerns over its software, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in a memo recently distributed to top government cybersecurity officials and seen by Reuters.

Taiwan would be the first government formally advising against use of Zoom, although some U.S. schools districts are looking at putting limits on its use after an FBI warning last month.

Zoom Chief Executive Officer Eric Yuan last week apologized https://blog.zoom.us/wordpress/2020/04/01/a-message-to-our-users to users, saying the company had fallen short of the community’s privacy and security expectations, and was taking steps to fix the issues.

Zoom competes with Microsoft’s Teams, Cisco’s Webex and Google’s Hangouts.

Taiwan’s cabinet said domestically-made conferencing apps were preferred, but if needed products from Google and Microsoft could also be considered.

Zoom’s shares were down 7% in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq. They have lost nearly a third of their market value since touching record highs late-March.

(Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Bengaluru and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvilla and Patrick Graham)

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