Zoom to build end-to-end encryption for the app with Keybase

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on May 08, 2020 Published on May 08, 2020

File photo   -  KSL

Zoom on Thursday announced that it had acquired technology start-up Keybase which specializes in encryption to enable end-to-end encryption for the video conferencing tool.

“We are excited to integrate Keybase’s team into the Zoom family to help us build end-to-end encryption that can reach current Zoom scalability,” Zoom CEO Eric Yuan said in an official blog post.

Keybase has been building encryption products for several years for messaging and file-sharing services and should help Zoom in strengthening its security with a better encryption system.

The video conferencing app which had earlier drawn major flak for its privacy and security issues had officially rolled out the updated version of the app, Zoom 5.0 last month. The new version includes multiple security enhancements as part of Zoom’s 90-day plan including support for AES 256-bit GCM encryption.

“Today, audio and video content flowing between Zoom clients (e.g., Zoom Rooms, laptop computers, and smartphones running the Zoom app) is encrypted at each sending client device,” Yuan explained.

“It is not decrypted until it reaches the recipients’ devices. With the recent Zoom 5.0 release, Zoom clients now support encrypting content using industry-standard AES-GCM with 256-bit keys. However, the encryption keys for each meeting are generated by Zoom’s servers,” he further said.

The end-to-end encryption when implemented will lead to Zoom losing out on some of its features that require the tool to keep some encryption keys in the cloud. It is a technical challenge to enable these features while implementing an end-to-end encryption system. Users who prefer end-to-end encryption might have to go for the new solution losing out on a few features.

“Some features that are widely used by Zoom clients, such as support for attendees to call into a phone bridge or use in-room meeting systems offered by other companies, will always require Zoom to keep some encryption keys in the cloud. However, for hosts who seek to prioritize privacy over compatibility, we will create a new solution,” Yuan said.

Meetings that opt for end-to-end encryption will not support phone bridges, cloud recording, or non-Zoom conference room systems.

“Zoom Rooms and Zoom Phone participants will be able to attend if explicitly allowed by the host. Encryption keys will be tightly controlled by the host, who will admit attendees,” Yuan further said.

Zoom will offer an end-to-end encrypted meeting mode for its paid users in the near future.

Published on May 08, 2020

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