Sensible Security Advice on Zoom

Last night, my buddy from Union City canceled a virtual, on-line drinking session that my wife and I were looking forward to attending. In canceling the event, he cited Zoom as being too insecure for use. (Don’t worry, my wife and I had a drink anyway.) And this morning, I had two other people ask whether it was OK to connect to Zoom, given the serious hacking and malware issues they’d heard the FBI has been warning American citizens about.

Yeesh. This is so misleading, as if we didn’t have enough to worry about. So I figured that since (I hope) you trust me on these matters, I would provide an unbiased summary of the issues related to Zoom. And recognize that Zoom is becoming like Jacuzzi or Q-Tip, in the sense that they all reference generic categories despite being commercial for-profit entities. My three points below thus apply pretty much to all on-line video conferencing systems.

Fact 1: It is safe for citizens to use video conferencing. Go ahead and get Mom and Dad and Uncle Junior on the bridge and have a nice time. And yes, virtual drinking might be the modern equivalent of the speak-easy joints Grandpa once enjoyed. Your PC will not get infected from connecting, and you will not (and I can’t believe I have to say this, but I do) get a biological virus from an infected person on the other line. So, go have a nice Zoom.

Fact 2: If someone has your access code, they can crash your call. Obviously, if you give away your access code, or hackers gain access somehow, then yes – they can crash your call. But worrying about this seems unreasonably nit-picky. If you had a family gathering at Muldoon’s in lower Manhattan (which I hope will be possible someday), then some weirdo might listen in by just muscling over to your group. Zoom crashing is nothing more.

Fact 3: Confidential business discussion might be taken elsewhere. If you are discussing next quarter’s earnings (which is no fun right now), then you’d be advised to take the conversation to your mobiles. Zoom sessions are sort-of encrypted (too complex to cover here), so a nation-state actor might find some way to gain access to listen. It all seems low return to me and the bad guys should just assume this: Earnings will be terrible.

I hope you’ll share this note with your family and friends. We DO NOT need to have people staying away from each other during a difficult time when on-line gatherings are our best way to connect socially. And if someone ever got on my family’s Zoom call and did something like photo bomb everyone with an inappropriate picture of some private part, then I can tell you that my Jersey family would laugh like hell and have another drink!

So go connect with Mom and Dad today – and do it over Zoom. Or whatever other video conferencing tool you like to use.

Stay safe and healthy.