Taiwan's government bars its agencies from using Zoom over security concerns

Catherine Shu
In this photo illustration a Zoom App logo is displayed on a smartphone on March 30, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. - The Zoom video meeting and chat app has become the wildly popular host to millions of people working and studying from home during the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

Taiwan’s Executive Yuan issued an advisory on Tuesday barring the country’s government agencies from using Zoom and other video software with "associated security or privacy concerns." Instead, the government said alternatives, including software from Google and Microsoft, should be considered.

Many organizations have been relying on Zoom to holding meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the video conferencing app has also been criticized for security and privacy issues.

Maybe we shouldn’t use Zoom after all


Government agencies in other countries have also restricted the use of Zoom, though Taiwan’s ban is one of the most sweeping so far. For example, New York City officials said that schools are no longer allowed to use Zoom for remote teaching and Australia's Defence Force and its MPs are no longer allowed to use the service.

The announcement from the Taiwanese government said, "The Executive Yuan’s Department of Cyber Security (DCS) today formally issued an advisory to all government organizations and specific non-government agencies that should it become operationally necessary to engage in video conferencing, the underlying video software to be used should not have associated security or privacy concerns, such as the Zoom video communication service."

The DCS added that "if the organization must use non-domestically produced software for international exchanges or some other special situation, many global and communication giants—like Google and Microsoft—are offering such technology for free amid the current pandemic. Organizations should consider these options after evaluating any associated data security risks."

On April 1, Zoom founder and CEO Eric Yuan wrote on the company's blog that "usage of Zoom has ballooned overnight—far surpassing what we expected when we first announced our desire to help in late February," with more than 200 million daily meeting participants in March, up from 10 million in December.

He apologized for the company’s security issues, writing that "we are looking into each and every one of them and addressing them as expeditiously as we can."

In March, as usage suddenly increased due to the pandemic, "ZoomBombing" became an issue, with people using the software’s screen-sharing feature to interrupt meetings with inappropriate content, including violent images and pornography. The Intercept also reported that Zoom video calls are not end-to-end encrypted, like the company claimed. Last week, Citizen Lab researchers said they had found that some calls were routed through China.

In a statement emailed to TechCrunch, a Zoom spokesperson said "Zoom takes user security extremely seriously. A large number of global institutions ranging from the world’s largest financial services companies, to leading telecommunications providers, government agencies, universities, healthcare and telemedicine practices have done exhaustive security reviews of our user, network and datacenter layers confidently selecting Zoom for complete deployment. Zoom is in communication with governments around the world and is focused on providing the information they need to make informed decisions about their policies."