Cybersecurity

Senate sergeant at arms warns lawmakers against using Zoom: report

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The Senate sergeant at arms has sent a memo to senators this week warning them against using the video conferencing service Zoom for work calls, citing security concerns, the Financial Times reported. 

The memo did not specifically require senators to stop using the platform, which has been plagued by privacy and security problems over the past two weeks, but recommended using alternative video conferencing services. 

The sergeant at arms did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment on the report.

A Zoom spokesperson told The Hill that the company 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 spokesperson emphasized that the company “is committed to ensuring the privacy, security and trust of its service for all our users.”

Members of Congress and individuals worldwide have flocked to Zoom during the coronavirus pandemic for work meetings, school classes or social gatherings. The platform reported a huge boost in daily users last month, with 200 million using Zoom every day as compared to 10 million in December. 

But Zoom has also faced a backlash over a multitude of security and privacy vulnerabilities, including issues that have led to hackers or other individuals being able to access and disrupt meetings through “Zoom bombings.” Multiple class-action lawsuits have been filed against the company as well amid revelations that Zoom shares user data with third parties including Facebook. 

The FBI and the top cyber agencies in the United States and the United Kingdom have issued warnings against using Zoom for meetings due to the security issues, and tech companies including Google have banned employees from using Zoom on work computers. 

Several Democratic senators have already expressed serious concerns about the company, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Ed Markey (Mass.), who on Wednesday sent a letter to Zoom CEO Eric Yuan asking how the company planned to boost privacy protections for students. 

“Precisely because Zoom’s technology has become such an invaluable — and in many cases, required — tool for learning and keeping students connected to their school communities during this crisis, we are concerned by recent reports that the platform may not be adequately safeguarding users’ data and privacy,” Markey and Warren wrote.

Markey on Wednesday also called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to issue guidance to video conferencing companies on how to ensure security and privacy protocols were sufficient. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) went a step further this week and asked the FTC to open an investigation into Zoom.

The company has pledged in recent days to take steps to address its vulnerabilities, with Yuan promising in a blog post last week to make the company’s privacy policy more transparent and bring in third-party investigators to root out remaining cyber vulnerabilities.

Alex Stamos, a former chief security officer at Facebook, announced Wednesday that he was working with Zoom to increase the company’s security after being asked for help by Yuan.

-Updated at 3:50 p.m. to include a statement from Zoom. 

Tags Coronavirus Ed Markey Edward Markey Elizabeth Warren meeting software Senate teleconferencing Zoom

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