As more schools shift to distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers in Taipei yesterday urged the Ministry of Education to pay attention to the security risks associated with using the remote conferencing service Zoom.
Following reports about privacy and security issues with Zoom, including that it sends data to China, groups such as NASA, the New York City government and the UK’s Ministry of Defence have reportedly banned its use.
Zoom founder and chief executive officer Eric Yuan (袁征), a Chinese-American, has apologized, saying that the company would freeze the development of new features and shift its resources to resolving the platform’s issues.
However, Zoom still appears on the Ministry of Education’s list of recommended software.
During a meeting of the legislature’s Education and Culture Committee, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin I-chin (林宜瑾) said that there are problems with the platform’s end-to-end encryption.
Malicious third parties might be able to collect user data, she said.
Professors or people working on technology might need to exchange confidential information, DPP Legislator Liu Shyh-fang (劉世芳) said, adding that the ministry would hopefully ban the platform’s use now that issues have been reported.
Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) said that the ministry does not encourage the use of the platform, adding that other platforms and software — such as Google Meet and Microsoft Teams — can be used.
However, some educators are accustomed to using Zoom, he said, adding that the ministry would remind them of the security risks.
“The ministry would provide other software options, and remind users to update their passwords and use stronger passwords,” said Kuo Po-chen (郭伯臣), head of the ministry’s Department of Information and Technology Education.
When people download the Zoom software through the ministry, the information is sent back to the ministry’s server room, which has the highest level of security, he said.
The ministry would also urge universities and schools to increase the security of their server rooms, he added.
Separately, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) yesterday responded to reporters’ questions on information security concerns after officials from Taiwan and the US used conferencing technology to take part in a virtual forum on expanding Taiwan’s participation on the global stage on Tuesday last week.
Since Zoom uses some software, hardware and services made in China, the ministry did not use the platform, Ou said.
The video software used by the ministry has been registered and tested several times, she said.
It meets all the necessary security requirements, she said.
Additional reporting by Lu Yi-hsuan
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