After security fears, Zoom announces new update with increased privacy features

Video conferencing app, Zoom has seen a tremendous surge in popularity since the novel coronavirus outbreak forced people to stay home. From global political leaders to ordinary citizens -- everyone it would seem had begun using the software.

Unfortunately, even as the app gained popularity, many worried about the app's safety measures. In India the Prime Minister's Office even released a press note stating that the platform is "not for use by Government officers/officials for official purposes". The Cyber Coordination Centre, under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, had also issued an advisory for private individuals to ensure that they can securely use the platform.

In response to these escalating worries, Zoom had taken steps to put new safety measures in place. The company had earlier announced that it would be enforcing a 90-day freeze on features updates to focus on security and privacy issues in its stead.

On Wednesday, the company announced that it had hit a milestone it its 90-day security plan, announcing security enhancements that would be put in place with the upcoming general availability of Zoom 5.0.

As per a press note from the company, this is a key milestone in the 90-day plan. The note quoted CEO Eric S. Yuan as saying that the company was determined to "earn our customers’ trust and deliver them happiness".

"When faced with questions over security and privacy, Zoom reacted quickly and very publicly to the challenges, including their CEO holding weekly public security briefings," added Wayne Kurtzman, IDC Research Director for Social, Communities, and Collaboration.

Here are a full list of changes:

Network:

● AES 256-bit GCM encryption: Zoom is upgrading to the AES 256-bit GCM encryption standard, which offers increased protection of your meeting data in transit and resistance against tampering. This provides confidentiality and integrity assurances on your Zoom Meeting, Zoom Video Webinar, and Zoom Phone data. Zoom 5.0, which is slated for release within the week, supports GCM encryption, and this standard will take effect once all accounts are enabled with GCM. System-wide account enablement will take place on May 30.

● Control Data Routing: The account admin may choose which data center regions their account-hosted meetings and webinars use for real-time traffic at the account, group, or user level.

User Experience and Controls:

Security icon: Zoom’s security features, which had previously been accessed throughout the meeting menus, are now grouped together and found by clicking the Security icon in the meeting menu bar on the host's interface.

● Robust host controls: Hosts will be able to “Report a User” to Zoom via the Security icon. They may also disable the ability for participants to rename themselves. For education customers, screen sharing now defaults to the host only.

● Waiting Room default-on: Waiting Room, an existing feature that allows a host to keep participants in individual virtual waiting rooms before they are admitted to a meeting, is now on by default for education, Basic, and single-license Pro accounts. All hosts may now also turn on the Waiting Room while their meeting is already in progress.

● Meeting password complexity and default-on: Meeting passwords, an existing Zoom feature, is now on by default for most customers, including all Basic, single-license Pro, and K-12 customers. For administered accounts, account admins now have the ability to define password complexity (such as length, alphanumeric, and special character requirements). Additionally, Zoom Phone admins may now adjust the length of the pin required for accessing voicemail.

● Cloud recordings passwords: Passwords are now set by default to all those accessing cloud recordings aside from the meeting host and require a complex password. For administered accounts, account admins now have the ability to define password complexity.

● Secure Account Contact Sharing: Zoom 5.0 will support a new data structure for larger organizations, allowing them to link contacts across multiple accounts so people can easily and securely search and find meetings, chat, and phone contacts.

● Dashboard enhancement: Admins on business, enterprise, and education plans can view how their meetings are connecting to Zoom data centers in their Zoom Dashboard. This includes any data centers connected to HTTP Tunnel servers, as well as Conference Room Connectors and gateways.

● Additional: Users may now opt to have their Zoom Chat notifications not show a snippet of their chat; new non-PMI meetings now have 11-digit IDs for added complexity; and during a meeting, the meeting ID and Invite option have been moved from the main Zoom interface to the Participants menu, making it harder for a user to accidentally share their meeting ID.

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