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Zoom reverses course and says it will offer security encryption to all users

It’s a simple set-up, but the user will have to flip a switch and confirm their contact info

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Photo (c) iBrave - Getty Images
The COVID-19 pandemic was a good news/bad news scenario for video-calling software company Zoom. While its revenue shot up 169 percent, it was fraught with security and vulnerability issues, not to mention “virtual fatigue” and new, direct competition from Microsoft, Facebook, and Google.

On Wednesday, the company said it’s at least found a way to take care of the security issues for all of its users -- not just certain paying subscribers -- in hopes of keeping them as a customer rather than risk losing them to one of the Big Tech’sters.

Zoom’s specific focus is on end-to-end encryption. At its core, end-to-end encryption prevents anybody short of a call’s sender and receiver to hack their way into a call, therefore taking “zoombombing” off the list of Zoom undesirables.

Not only does end-to-end encryption protect against hackers, but it also makes it nearly impossible for a government or law enforcement agency to view Zoom content, whether they have a legal right to do so or not.

For Zoom, this is a change of heart. Only weeks ago, the company’s CEO Eric Yuan told analysts on a conference call that the company would only offer end-to-end protection if the user was a paying customer. 

Not turned on automatically

Zoom users shouldn’t expect end-to-end encryption to be there automatically. Unless they turn on the upgraded encryption and give Zoom a phone number it can verify, nothing will be changed; that would leave users in the same potential danger zone they’re in now. 

Yuan says the decision to make the encryption activation manual was motivated by the desire to curb the creation of abusive accounts.

"We are confident that by implementing risk-based authentication, in combination with our current mix of tools … we can continue to prevent and fight abuse," he said.

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