Is Your Church Using Zoom? What You Need to Know Now!
There might be many companies that will not survive the coronavirus, but there is one company that is growing like never before – ZOOM. ZOOM Video Communications is an American conferencing application headquartered in San Jose, California and is the preferred software for many church groups meeting online.
ZOOM has made video conferencing super easy. Even Back to Jerusalem has started to use Zoom for the first time this year before the coronavirus outbreak. (And yes – we bought the subscription plan unlike the other cheapo’s out there that make all of their employees suffer by using the free version 😊)
Unfortunately, as easy and wonderful as ZOOM is, the convenience comes at a hefty price (even if you are using the free version).
Zoom is doing some pretty shady things that have been identified by the Intercept.
- Although ZOOM has advertised that your meetings are secure and led many to assume that there is an end-to-end encryption, Intercept explains that this is misleading marketing because, “the service actually does not support end-to-end encryption for video and audio content.”
- ZOOM could be sharing your personal information without your knowledge. ZOOM “is leaking personal information of at least thousands of users, including their email address and photo.”
- Apple was forced to secure millions of Mac users when ZOOM failed to disclose that it had installed a secret web server on their computer that did not come off when the program was uninstalled.
- A secret web server installed by ZOOM, according to researcher Jonathan Leitschuh, allowed malicious websites to activate and use a Mac webcam without the user’s knowledge.
- ZOOM has been secretly sending data to Facebook about a user’s ZOOM habits – even if the ZOOM user does not have a Facebook account.
- Although the company is based in America, the founder Eric Yuan was born and raised in China. It has been blocked in the past, but the software is working in China which immediately raises questions to it’s security, because software companies that do not supply information to the Chinese government upon request do not survive in China.
- ZOOM has not released a transparency report allowing users to know whether they have been cooperating with police or governments request for information.
Simply put, ZOOM is easy and convenient to use, but does come with risks that churches and mission groups need to be aware of. If your church or mission agency is currently conducting meetings with users in closed countries or are discussing things of high security with your partners, you need to know that there are security risks.
The good news is there are some things that you can do to help minimize the risk.
- Join ZOOM without downloading the software. At the moment it is possible to join a ZOOM meeting without installing the software and can minimize the damage.
- Switch to another system (but they too have pitfalls). FaceTime and WhatsApp have end-to-end encryption, but FaceTime only works with Apple device and WhatsAp has a limited number of callers. Threema is also an option for one-on-one video-conferencing.
- Participate in ZOOM conferencing by using a public/community computer, disposable email addresses, and cover up the camera or wear disguises (could be more fun than you think!)
Every conference call solution will have short-falls, but if we know what those short-falls are, we can take the necessary precautions.
Full disclosure, at the writing of this article, Back to Jerusalem is using ZOOM.