Zoom reaches out to govt as MHA raises safety concerns about its platform

Zoom began operations in India in September last year, with an aim to ramp up its teams here to serve its already sizable customer base here
California-based collaboration services company Zoom has been in the news lately for security issues raised by several governments and enterprises over the past few weeks. However, having admitted it made some mistakes — as its user base increased massively during the lockdowns in different parts of the world — the company says India is a significant market and it is speaking to the Indian government to allay concerns over application security.  

“We are in touch with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). We are in the process of communicating with them, in terms of sharing with them the actual facts about technology, security of our platform, and the privacy of our users using our platform. Once these discussions are concluded, I am sure the ministries will take the right message. It is in our interest to keep them informed,” said Sameer Raje, India head, Zoom.

On April 12, the MHA said in an advisory that Zoom is not a safe platform, and is not for use by government offices or officials. “Zoom is a not a safe platform and advisory of Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) on the same dated February 6 and March 30 may kindly be referred,” said the advisory from the National Cyber Coordination Centre under the MHA.

CERT-In put out an advisory on March 30 about ‘secure usage of Zoom videoconferencing application’, detailing the steps users should take to ensure their data remains protected.

Raje said the company is “trying to find out what exactly are the concerns (of the government) because if you look at the sort of advisories which were given... (spoke) in terms of how to use the platform in a secure manner”.

Zoom has also tried to fix some of the issues it has faced through an education campaign by hosting webinars, and mailing them to its users. It has also communicated its stand on these issues and other updates through its blogs.

“We also mandated some of the features and functionality, especially for individual users who are coming on board. For example, we mandated that each of the meetings that these individual users would set would be password protected, and the waiting room would be by default enabled. Similarly, the share-screen option would be disabled when the meeting would start, it would only remain with the host,” said Raje.

Zoom began operations in India in September last year, with an aim to ramp-up its teams here to serve its already sizeable customer base.  It also planned to hire more partners and channels, so as to meet India-specific demands.

During Covid-19, the company has seen its global customer base rise from 10 million to 300 million users in a span of less than 12 weeks. “India contributes to a significant chunk of it and the country continues to be a focus for us,” said Raje.

The rise in user base came from enterprise users, especially traditional businesses that had to get on collaboration platforms to manage the work-from-home situation, and Zoom also proactively started enabling schools — from kindergarten to Class 12 — to use its services gratis.

In terms of difference between the overseas and the Indian market, Raje said in the former, there is a lot of uptake in terms of online purchases, etc, whereas in the latter, a lot of the work or selling requires to be done in person.

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