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Jordan calls for Oversight to stop conducting business via Zoom

Jordan calls for Oversight to stop conducting business via Zoom
© Greg Nash

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanCheney, top GOP lawmakers ask Trump campaign for proof of election fraud New RSC chairman sees 'Trumpism' as future Sunday shows preview: Biden team gears up for transition, Trump legal battles continue and pandemic rages on MORE (Ohio), the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, called Friday for an end to using Zoom to conduct the panel's business remotely due to potential security concerns.

Jordan wrote in a letter to Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyHillicon Valley: Government used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 | Defense bill leaves out Section 230 repeal, includes White House cyber czar position | Officials warn hackers are targeting vaccine supply chain Defense policy bill would create new cyber czar position Sweeping financial crimes bill to hitch a ride on defense measure MORE (D-N.Y.) that the Zoom video conferencing software, which has become popular for teleworking and virtual social gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic, did not appear to meet security standards needed to handle the panel's functions.

Jordan claimed that a recent briefing on women's rights in Afghanistan was repeatedly “Zoom-bombed,” a term for hackers or other uninvited individuals disrupting meetings on the platform. He said in the letter that "the impact of hacking on malware on member and staff devices is still being determined."

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A House GOP aide told The Hill that "unauthorized callers from unknown entities tried no fewer than three times to infiltrate a meeting meant only for members of Congress and their staff, which resulted in significant interruption and delay.”

But a Democratic aide denied that there were any security disruptions for the committee either during the Afghanistan briefing or another Zoom meeting with the Postmaster General. The aide said that there had only been a miscommunication in which the moderator was not informed about some individuals who were invited to the Afghanistan briefing.

“Rep. Jordan’s office was consulted directly and repeatedly about using Zoom and never raised any concerns, so it’s unfortunate that he is now putting out inaccurate information in this public letter. Had his office consulted with us first, we could have clarified their misunderstandings and provided more information about the steps the committee has already taken to address any potential issues," Maloney said in a statement.

"The committee has used a number of technologies to help its members obtain information and share it with the American people during this crisis, and it will continue to do so to fulfill its responsibilities under the Constitution," Maloney added.

A Monday readout from Maloney after the video briefing on Afghanistan said that "our committee will continue to leverage new and emerging technologies to follow social distancing guidelines and conduct our work remotely."

Maloney didn't immediately have a response to Jordan's letter. A Monday readout from her after the video briefing made no mention of the interruptions or possible security issues with the Zoom platform, but said that "our committee will continue to leverage new and emerging technologies to follow social distancing guidelines and conduct our work remotely."

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Jordan noted in his letter that the Senate sergeant-at-arms has warned Senate offices not to use Zoom for work calls over privacy and security concerns.

The FBI has also issued warnings against using Zoom for meetings due to the security issues and recommended that all meetings be set to private and not shared to social media.

"Given the concerns surrounding Zoom’s security, it is clear Zoom is not an appropriate platform for Committee business, which may be particularly sensitive during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please immediately suspend any current or future use of Zoom systems for official committee activities and take immediate steps to evaluate the Committee’s internal cybersecurity preparedness to prevent hackers from accessing sensitive committee information through the Zoom platform," Jordan wrote.

When asked about the Senate sergeant-at-arms warning against Zoom use, a spokesperson for the videoconferencing company told The Hill on Thursday that it was "in communication with US Senate offices and focused on providing the information they need, including about our tailored Zoom for Government offering, which is hosted in a separate cloud and meets the particular specifications of FedRAMP security policies, to make informed decisions about their policies."

The concerns about using Zoom come as lawmakers try to figure out ways to conduct congressional business while away from the Capitol during the coronavirus pandemic.

Members of both parties have called on House leaders to establish a remote voting system so that they can cast votes on legislation remotely, instead of passing bills by voice vote or unanimous consent. But if a single member objects to passing legislation by voice vote or unanimous consent, that may require forcing hundreds of lawmakers to travel to Washington and congregate in the Capitol. Congressional leaders have been trying to avoid bringing all members together as the country practices social distancing.

But Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden backs 0B compromise coronavirus stimulus bill US records over 14 million coronavirus cases On The Money: COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Slowing job growth raises fears of double-dip recession | Biden officially announces Brian Deese as top economic adviser MORE (D-Calif.) says it's easier said than done to figure out a secure and reliable way for lawmakers to vote remotely.

"There are some technologies that you might think would be workable, but they might not be secure," she told reporters on Thursday.

Yet Pelosi acknowledged, "I'll be very frank with you: We don't want anybody coming back at any time that might not be healthy for them."

Some legislatures in other states and countries have created remote voting systems so that lawmakers can cast votes during the pandemic. In New Jersey, state legislators passed coronavirus relief legislation by conference call, while the Wisconsin state Senate has been preparing to use Skype for Business for any virtual sessions. And in Wales, members of the Welsh assembly used Zoom to meet virtually for its weekly plenary session.

Updated: 4:24 p.m.