Zoom security concerns loom large at CPP

Privacy and security issues of the popular video conferencing program, Zoom, have arisen at Cal Poly Pomona, casting doubts on the platform’s reliability.

Features like hand raising, breakout rooms and the 300-person meeting capacity for CPP accounts, made Zoom the preferred replacement for most physical classrooms.

Yet, according to Zoom’s status page on August 24, users experienced a nationwide outage and the issue restricted users’ ability to join sessions. This acutely disrupted student access to their first day of classes.

According to an email sent by the CPP IT service desk, the services were quickly restored within the same day but this is not the first instance of malfunctioning.

Last spring, security problems such as “Zoom bombing,” in which an uninvited person joins a private session, had been reported. Other securities and privacy issues such as unauthorized access to a user’s microphone or video camera and the sending out of private user information have occurred during classes.

Zoom suggests employing meeting passwords to secure video sessions and prevent intruders. (Lauren Muttram|The Poly Post)

Recent political science CPP graduate Oli Loeffler recalled an instance of Zoom bombing during an introduction to public administration class one week after the university introduced Zoom as a means of instruction.

“Thirty minutes into the class, a random person joined the session and began posting inappropriate links in the chat,” Loeffler said. “For a few minutes, my professor paused the class to try and kick out the infiltrator.”

Statistics lecturer, Mark Dela remembered an occasion he believed to be an attempt to Zoom bomb his class.

“I remember seeing emails at one or two in the morning saying someone is ready to go to class.” Dela further explained he did not recognize the names attempting to join the session, and believed these people were intruders.

Other instances have occurred on campus, prompting professors to protect their class sessions with passwords or turning to other platforms altogether. Other students believe the protections are effective.

“Personally, I didn’t have any privacy issues when using Zoom,” said CPP alumna Elliana Maggetti. She explained most of her classes were password protected, which she believes to be the reason she experienced no issues.

Founder and CEO of Zoom, Eric S. Yuan, posted on the company’s blog addressing the rampant security issues. “We recognize that we have fallen short of the community’s – and our own – privacy and security expectations,” said Yuan. “For that, I am deeply sorry.”

Since the increased reports of security issues, Zoom initiated a 90-day security plan on April 1 to update security measures and ensure users their safety is taken seriously. Changes made to the platform include a “report a user” feature and a new security icon allowing users to lock meetings, create waiting rooms and manage participant controls.

In response to the recent security issues, the CPP IT department released a list of best practices for the university when using Zoom including:

  • Protecting each session with a randomly generated or strong password.
  • Locking each session to prevent unwanted attendees.
  • Using the waiting room feature to admit users.
  • Restricting Zoom sessions so that only CPP accounts can join; faculty can do so by selecting the “only authenticated users can join” option when running sessions.

Additionally, it is recommended to join meetings through a web browser instead of using the Zoom desktop app as the website receives faster security enhancements. However, the website is also less equipped with popular features such as breakout rooms.

Students, faculty and staff can contact the IT service desk with any technical issues or questions regarding zoom by submitting an IT service ticket or emailing the IT department at itservicedesk@cpp.edu.

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