Zoom – Privacy and Security Issues

Zoom – Privacy and Security Issues

As the coronavirus crisis affects the world, there has been a sharp rise in working from home and, as a result, the use of video conferencing platforms such as Zoom. But Zoom has also come under fire for numerous privacy and security issues.

As reported by Help Net Security, some of these issues include:

  • A non-transparent and sketchy privacy policy
  • The attendee attention tracker feature
  • The incorrect claim that Zoom meetings/webinars were capable of using end-to-end encryption
  • The iOS client sending user device information to Facebook (because of the Facebook SDK used)
  • UNC link issue that could result in attackers stealing users’ passwords and run malware
  • Two vulnerabilities that could be used by attackers with local access take over a Zoom user’s Mac, as well as tapping into the device’s webcam and microphone. Exploitation of one of these is possible because Zoom uses a shady installation technique also used by some macOS malware. (In a similar vein, last year Zoom stopped installing a hidden web server on Macs that helped with frictionless installation of the tool)
  • A feature that provided info on Zoom meeting participants (pulled from LinkedIn)
  • Zoombombing (i.e., trolls crashing and disrupting Zoom meetings), additionally exacerbated by lax privacy and security choices made by users and vulnerabilities that allow for the creation of tools like zWarDial, which automates Zoom meeting discovery (The tool hasn’t been publicly released.)

All of these issues raise the question of how safe it is to use Zoom. However, it is important to note that since coming under increased scrutiny in the last few weeks, Zoom has been working to address many of these issues, as Help Net Security has reported:

Since then most of these problems have been addressed: the attendee attention tracker feature and the LinkedIn data sharing feature have been permanently removed, most of the vulnerabilities have been fixed, the Facebook SDK info sending code has been removed, the privacy policy updated be more clear around what data the company collects and how it is used.


Most importantly, Zoom Video Communications’s CEO Eric Yuan publicly pledged that, for the next 90 days the company will temporarily stop working on new features and shift all their engineering resources to focus on trust, safety, and privacy issues.


He apologized for the company failing short of the community’s privacy and security expectations, said that many of the issues were due to the fact that Zoom was built primarily for enterprise customers (large institutions with full IT support).

You can read the full article from Help Net Security here.

It’s a positive step to see a company working towards better security and privacy measures, but although Yuan has argued they “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”, the problems should nonetheless have been addressed before.

The chief question here is whether it’s safe to use Zoom. You should always be careful about using any platform on which you can share data, and on the whole, there are more secure services available.

Are you concerned about data privacy issues during the coronavirus crisis? Contact us today to get our expert, professional advice.

Insights from Sheila Fitzpatrick – PrivSec London 2020

Insights from Sheila Fitzpatrick – PrivSec London 2020

At the PrivSec London conference last week, we heard from Sheila Fitzpatrick, a global expert in privacy and compliance. Here’s our pick of what she had to say and her advice about GDPR, the culture shift it has already brought about, and data privacy and security.

Anonymising data doesn’t truly make data safe, because someone in the organisation still has access to the original data. You need to really think about why your company is getting and using data – achieving an ‘improved user experience’ is not a good enough excuse. Companies often think that security is the same thing as privacy, and point enquiries about privacy to security protocols – but this is an ‘instant fail’ in Fitzpatrick’s book.

Companies in many other countries don’t realise they’re still subject to other countries’ Data Protection laws such as GDPR – and many countries are also planning laws that will exceed its requirements. GDPR created an awareness of changing legal focus from data security to the lawful bases for processing data, which in turn became the impetus for new laws across the world – as well as adding new technologies which also created privacy issues.

GDPR became the biggest revenue generator since Y2K – and there are a lot of solutions in the market. Companies often like to believe that they can buy ‘compliance in a box’, which is impossible and shows a lack of understanding of privacy; they often throw technology at the problem and assume that innovation will provide a better user experience.

They think that privacy will become irrelevant as a result of this approach; that it can be addressed through a simple checkbox, or that they have a “legitimate interest” in processing personal data. However, this probably isn’t true if the basis can’t be explained on a page clearly. It also shouldn’t be forgotten that if consent is ambiguous, it’s invalid under GDPR.

Big Data is problematic for GDPR compliance on many fronts, and so are AI and Smart Cities: it’s difficult to meet consumer rights demands for example, and to maintain anonymity where necessary.

Fitzpatrick noted that to access public Wi-Fi from a major telecommunications company recently, she had to wade through 5 pages of Privacy Policy and still couldn’t find out how to turn cookies off – which is not compliant with GDPR requirements.

You need to always be honest about what you’re doing; if you can’t, you’ve got a problem. Be upfront about your use of third parties who receive data from you, and don’t let vendors dictate terms to you as their terms can put you in breach. Privacy improvements give a competitive advantage and failing to comply can damage reputations badly.

Our thanks to Sheila Fitzpatrick for these insights and for giving an engaging and thought-provoking talk.

Insights from Sheila Fitzpatrick – PrivSec London 2020

The Need for a Culture Shift – PrivSec London 2020

From what we heard at the PrivSec London conference this week, it was clear that a culture shift is needed in many – maybe most – companies coming into the new decade. Our thanks go to the guest speakers who provided these insights – you can see a full list of those whose talks we attended at the end of this article.

Here are some culture shifts that companies need to be making in order to keep up with changing legislation and guidelines:

CULTURE SHIFT #1: Have a plan for privacy and cybersecurity, with people and budgets allocated to it.

CULTURE SHIFT #2: Don’t assume that privacy = cybersecurity, you’ll fail if you assume it’s a tech matter. Do a dummy run of a data breach at your organisation – it’ll probably throw up some significant issues.

CULTURE SHIFT #3: To get buy-in across the organisation, explain Privacy and Cybersecurity matters in the business terms of each department or stakeholder group’s business goals, such as making money, reputation protection, and so on.

CULTURE SHIFT #4: Getting your data into one place (e.g. the cloud) makes it more controllable in one place with a lot of access but is also where the biggest risk lies. Work out what you’ve got and what you are moving to the cloud – delete as much as you can of your data set defensively, use the infrastructure and systems there to look after every piece of information in one system and apply policies across everything.

CULTURE SHIFT #5: Get tighter on checking, stating and enabling opt-outs for all the cookies working on your website(s), such as trackers: many of these may be coming from your third-party hosting provider rather than your own web developers and plugins! ‘Continued browsing’ or browser settings aren’t adequate to demonstrate consents anymore under the latest government guidances.

CULTURE SHIFT #6: For businesses, ethics ARE sustainability. They’re about only using data for transparent, legitimate reasons that genuinely improve the user experience and give users control over the data held about them and how it is used. They’re about not ruining trust or making customers uneasy about using your business or website or platform.

Our thanks to the following guest speakers at PrivSec London 2020:

  • Steve Wright, Partner, Privacy Culture Ltd, previously DPO for Bank of England, also John Lewis and Unilever previously
  • Baroness Neville-Rolfe, EU Committee member
  • Sheila Firtzpatrick, Fitzpatrick & Associates
  • Dave Horton, Solutions Engineer at OneTrust
  • Shaab Al-Baghdadi, OnlineDPO; Emily Johnson, Microsoft, Bill Karazsia, Fortive; Joao Torres Barreiro, Wills Towers Watson;
  • Charlie Wijsman, Accenture Global Data Privacy Lead
  • Damine Larrey, Microsoft; Dominic Johnston, Epiq Global; Damian Murphy, Lighthouse Global
  • Alberto Quesada, Global Head of Group Data Management, BNP Paribas
  • John Richardson, DMA, and formerly the Telephone Preference Service; Giorgia Vulcan, EU Privacy Counsel for the EU DPO Office, Coca-Cola; Or Lechner, Luminati Networks; Marie Bradley, Adam & Eve; Magali Fey, Anonos
    Ben Hawes, Benchmark initiative
  • Joan Keevil, Professional e-Learning Expert, SAI Global
  • David Clarke, Founder, GDPR Technology Forum; Beth Brookner, Privacy Counsel and Data Protection Officer, GVC Ladbrokes Coral; Steve Windle, Incident Response Lead for Europe & Latin America, Accenture; Cosimo Monda, Director, Maastricht European Centre on Privacy and Cybersecurity; Simon Hall, Privacy Consultant & DPO Coach, AwarePrivacy
  • Stuart Aston, National Security Officer, Microsoft
  • Greg Van Der Gaast, Head of Information Security, University of Salford
  • Meera Narendra, Journalist, Data Protection World Forum; Dr Shavana Musa, Legal Consultant and Academic, The University of Manchester;  Victoria Guilloit, Partner, Privacy Culture; Ally Pinkerton, Group Head of Information Security Governance & Assurance, Group Information Security Office, Bupa