Zoom Video Communications, Inc. is a cloud-based communication platform offering video, voice, chat, and content sharing. Eric Yuan, a former Cisco engineer and executive, founded Zoom in 2011 and launched its software in 2013. The company is headquartered in San Jose, California. The platform enables cloud-native, face-to-face video to connect users across devices and locations in a single meeting. Zoom's platform was designed to make videoconferencing easy and accessible, providing video services for enterprise, consumer, and educational customers. To achieve this, Zoom focuses on ease of use for the platform.
The Zoom cloud-based platform for video conferencing can be utilized for meetings and group messaging on various systems, including Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. Industries in which the software has been used include education, healthcare, government, and financial services. The platform can be utilized for small meetings to large gatherings, and there can be up to 1,000 video participants and 10,000 viewers for one meeting. Zoom's main features include the following:
- One-on-one meetings
- Group video conferences
- Screen sharing
- Meetings—Zoom users can hold business meetings, trainings, and discussions regarding technical support.
- Webinars—Gatherings for professional purposes, such as marketing events or town hall meetings, can be conducted on the platform.
- Conference Rooms—Businesses can meet remotely in virtual conference rooms designed for collaboration.
- Phone System—Users can make phone calls on Zoom using the cloud and utilize features such as voicemail and call recording.
- Chat—The chat feature allows users to message across platforms and share files.
Zoom offers the above features to be streamlined into one cloud-based platform, a technology commonly referred to as unified communications as a service (UCaaS). In addition to video meetings, Zoom's UCaaS platform—called Zoom United—also adds a chat feature, VoIP Phone service, video webinars, and Zoom Rooms, the latter of which is a video-based conference tool. Zoom offers Zoom United in their Business Plus plan, which includes meetings, phone use, messaging, and cloud storage.
Zoom offers various subscription and pricing tiers and plans based on the anticipated use cases. This includes plans for Zoom One, which includes meetings, chat, phone, and more; Zoom Phone for business only; Zoom Events & Webinar, which offers tiers for the number of attendees to a webinar; Zoom Rooms, which offers subscription plans for the platform's meeting rooms alone; and Zoom Contact Center, which is built for various chat services, including voice and video chat, for contact centers.
Zoom software saw a global increase beginning in early 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic when quarantine measures included the closures of public infrastructure, such as schools and businesses. Zoom users increased from around 10 million daily meeting participants in December 2019 to 200 million daily meeting participants by May 2020, and 300 million a month after that. This led to Zoom's valuation of $100 billion during the pandemic, representing a 383 percent increase in a year. With the influx of users, Zoom acquired Keybase, a platform for secure messaging and file-sharing.
Zoom and its software have been criticized, especially following the increase in usage towards the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, for security and privacy concerns and lapses. The company's acquisition of Keybase was partly in to response to many of these privacy concerns. This acquisition came after the New York Attorney General in 2020 investigated Zoom for its use by the New York City Department of Education. The investigation was to discover whether the platform's new security issues were robust enough for security concerns.
Similar to this, federal intelligence reports were issued jointly by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber Mission and Counterintelligence Mission regarding the safety of the Zoom platform. The reports warned the platform could be vulnerable to intrusions by foreign governments and their intelligence services. In response to this analysis, Zoom suggested the results were misinformed and included blatant inaccuracies about the company's operations.
Of these privacy and security concerns came the practice of Zoombombing, described as a type of cyber-harassment in which an individual or group of uninvited users are able to interrupt Zoom meetings. Examples of Zoombombing have included individuals crashing meetings, including for malicious purposes, such as sharing pornographic or hate images, malware, or taking control of participants' screens. Conferences were vulnerable, especially when they were hosted on public channels with shareable URLs. Hijackers could figure out a URL sometimes through guessing, but often a basic Google search using "Zoom.us" to discover unprotected meeting links.
In response to these concerns, Zoom increased its employee count, from February 2020 to December 2021, from around 2,400 to 6,100 employees. At the end of this hiring, the software became the first video communications client to attain Common Criteria certification, an international cybersecurity standard awarded after analysis. They also added end-to-end encryption to the platform during this period to make it more robust.
Other Zoom safety options include using the platform's two-factor authentication, hosting/attending Zoom meetings through web browser rather than using the Zoom desktop software client (especially as the browser can limit potential security problems), and requiring a meeting password.
Despite these measures, security concerns have continued. In February 2022, reports stated Zoom users on Apple computers found their microphones remained on after meetings. This was fixed in an update a month later. And in May 2022, a Google security researcher discovered a security flaw in which Zoom's server and client used different XML parsing libraries, with the software failing to check the installation version during updates and creating a vulnerability that could be exploited by hackers. This flaw was patched shortly after.
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