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11.17.20

FTC settles data security complaint against Zoom

BY Richard H. Tilghman IV

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced last week that it had settled claims with Zoom Video Communications, Inc. (Zoom) relating to a variety of allegedly false and misleading representations made by Zoom about the security features of Zoom’s videoconferencing platform. The case is of interest because of the platform’s widespread use for corporate and personal videoconferencing, which has exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic. The FTC’s complaint, for example, noted that Zoom videoconferencing had increased from 10 million per day to 300 million per day during the pandemic.

Among other things, the FTC alleged that Zoom had failed to:

  • Test its systems for security vulnerabilities prior to releasing software updates
  • Secure remote access to its networks through multi-factor authentication
  • Properly monitor Zoom’s networks and systems, configure firewalls, and segment its networks
  • Implement a systematic incident response process
  • Implement a systematic process for inventorying, classifying, and deleting user data

In contrast to these failings, the FTC alleged that Zoom had touted its supposedly robust security protocols. For example, the FTC alleged that Zoom had:

  • Represented in blogs and white papers that its security features included an end-to-end Advanced Encryption Standard 256-bit encryption
  • Led consumers to believe that meeting recordings were encrypted when stored by Zoom

Despite making these representations, Zoom later acknowledged that it was not using end-to-end encryption, as that term is typically understood. Further, according to the FTC, Zoom was not using 256-bit encryption but was instead using a less secure 128-bit encryption. Finally, the FTC’s complaint asserted that Zoom had taken active measures to avoid the security safeguards imposed on Apple’s Safari application, which exposed users to additional vulnerabilities.

Last week, the FTC announced that Zoom had settled the FTC’s complaint. Under the settlement agreement, Zoom must avoid any further misrepresentations regarding its platform’s security features and adopt new measures to enhance the security of its systems, including:

  • Implementing an information security program that imposes documented security policies and procedures, assesses system vulnerabilities, requires training of Zoom employees on security procedures, addresses incident response, and requires additional protections, such as encryption and tokenization for data collected by Zoom (The program must be reevaluated annually by Zoom and subject to review by independent third parties.)
  • Reporting to the FTC any incidents involving unauthorized access that would be required to be reported under federal, state, or local law and maintaining records for five years of any security complaints
  • Providing sworn compliance reports to the FTC within one year of the settlement and voluntarily submitting to interviews with the FTC to assess Zoom’s compliance with the agreement

A full copy of the settlement agreement can be located here: https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/cases/1923167zoomacco2.pdf.

As data security takes on increasing importance in the marketplace, the FTC’s action against Zoom is a reminder that companies should not only implement prudent data security measures but should also ensure that any descriptions of such protocols in its marketing materials are accurate and not misleading.

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Richard H. Tilghman IV

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