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Zoom Security: No longer an Oxymoron

By Reynolds | Hadaway | Tuesday, July 14, 2020 - Leave a Comment

Lessons Learned from Zoom’s Rise…


The only constant is change.
An illustration of impermanence in information security.


Zoom’s popularity is in a large part thanks to its ease of use and low cost. How can you go wrong with an application that is popular, cost effective, and easy to use? Good question, easy answer: security.

But Zoom has taught us a few things about vendor management, risk acceptance, and (most importantly) a principle of cybersecurity (its impermanence).

When Zoom first started to rise in popularity, it was missing common security controls that many people overlooked, but not bank ISOs who now have great vendor management programs in place. Zoom’s privacy policy did not address how our information was being used, stored, or protected. They did not offer end-to-end encryption, phishers and bad actors were zeroing in on Zoom as a platform with several scary vulnerabilities, and Zoom had little public evidence their systems were audited for proper security controls. Due to this, many of us in the banking industry were caught between irritating management . . . who had no place to go in a pandemic but Zoom . . . or accept the risk of allowing connections to an unvetted, unengaged third party.

But that risk is lower now, showing how cybersecurity is impermanent, ever evolving, and . . . in the case of Zoom . . . a continuous improvement process.

After facing scrutiny on multiple fronts, Zoom addressed many of the issues by updating their policies and security posture. They now offer end-to-end encryption, address selling of data in their privacy policy, and have released a SOC-2 report detailing their security controls (which we have reviewed and compared against other third-party vendors here. The results are rather surprising. (To arrive at these results, we used the method described in this video: Note that the difference in overall risk between 95 and 112 is minuscule).

Many prudent institutions recognized these risks and looked before they leapt, and luckily for those that did not, there have not been any major publicized exploitations. Information security is always evolving though, and systems considered secure one day could seem insecure the next, similarly with insecure systems, they can evolve (good or bad!). We’ve seen this with many cloud-based applications over the years. For example, Dropbox’s original security was a mess, but fortunately for them they experienced an incident that woke their management. They responded, fixed their issues, and now provide SSAE-18 reports to those vetting them.

Zoom, in addressing their criticisms, stepped up as well and should be reconsidered by those who first recognized their risk and decided against its use. Of course, there are still risks, including issues that affect all such systems (i.e. Zoom-bombing can happen to any meeting without a password), and possible privacy concerns based on foreign ties; all of which will need to be identified and addressed when risk assessing the platform before implementation.

So, before you prohibit your CEO from attending her next C-Suite Zoom Meeting with Virtual Lemonade, consider that your risk acceptance questions are down to two:

  • Are we okay that China’s government can potentially hear our conversations?
  • Is a password being used on the room?

Even if you cannot answer these questions with “yes,” the risk may be acceptable. But here’s our question to you: who should accept this risk? The CEO? You? Or the board of directors, when you present next?


Original article by Adam Reynolds, Staff Auditor at infotex | Dan Hadaway CRISC CISA CISM. Founder and Managing Partner, infotex


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