ZOOMing away during Covid times, glitches and valid alternatives

Are you using Zoom yet?

Well, millions globally are, especially now that we are remote working from
home due to this pandemic. We use it on our jobs, or to socialise, trying to keep sane with friends.

Not everyone though, for example my kids`school opted for Microsoft Teams to reach and continue teaching students in the comfort of their homes; but back to Zoom for now, we are going to mention the other direct competitors later in the article.

So, we witnessed first-hand Zoom`s explosive popularity during these unique
Covid times. There are good reasons Zoom has taken off and other platforms
haven`t. Zoom is easy to set up, easy to use and lets up to 100 people to join a
meeting for free. It just works, but is it perfect? Of course not, there is no such
thing, yet, no?

Anyways, we started learning that there is also the downside to all of this. Since Zoom is so easy to use and access, it makes it vulnerable to troublemakers who want to “bomb” open Zoom meetings.

Information-security professionals say Zoom`s security has a lot of holes. Those holes are quickly being patched, but new ones continue to appear.
There`s also been scrutiny of Zoom`s privacy policy, which until recently seemed to give Zoom the right to do whatever it wanted with users` personal data, and its encryption policies, which have been more than a tad misleading.

That`s created a backlash against Zoom. On April 6, New York City public schools moved to ban Zoom meetings, and other school systems did the same, although Singapore now seems to be reversing its ban on Zoom for distance learning.

With this ton of issues, people are looking for other options.

Zoom is still safe to use in most cases. Does all this mean that Zoom is unsafe to use? No. Unless you`re discussing state or corporate secrets, or disclosing personal health information to a patient, Zoom should be fine.

For school classes, after-work get-togethers, or even workplace meetings that
stick to routine business, there`s not much risk in using Zoom. Kids will probably continue to flock to it, as they can even use Snapchat filters on Zoom.

Zoom Security Tips

“Join Zoom meetings through your web browser rather than using the Zoom
desktop software. The web browser version gets security enhancements faster. The web version sits in a sandbox in the browser and doesn’t have the
permissions an installed app has, limiting the amount of harm it can potentially cause”, notes information-security company Kaspersky.

When you click a link to join a meeting, your browser will open a new tab and
prompt you to use or install the Zoom desktop software. But in the fine print,
there`s a link to “join from your browser”, click that instead.

If you are hosting a Zoom meeting, ask that meeting participants sign in with a password. That will make Zoom-bombing much less likely.

Just be aware that Zoom creates a huge “attack surface” and that hackers are
going to come at it every way they can. They`ve already registered lots of Zoom-related phony domains and are developing Zoom-themed malware.

The upside is that if lots of flaws in Zoom are found and fixed right away, then
Zoom will be the better — and safer — for it.

“Zoom will soon be the most secure conferencing tool out there”, wrote tech
journalist Kim Zetter on Twitter April 1, “too bad they didn`t save themselves
some grief and engage in some security assessments of their own to avoid this
trial by fire”.

Zoom 5.0 is out now — how to upgrade and what`s new

New updates for Zoom`s desktop client software and mobile apps are now
available to download for Windows, Android (at least in theory) and Linux, with Mac and iOS coming soon after testing by Apple.

The update, Zoom 5.0, is designed to address the Zoom privacy and security
issues that have come up as demand for the video-conferencing service has
exploded while people are staying and working at home.

Zoom`s improved security measures include stronger encryption, default
passwords and a new hub for easy access to important security settings.

In the most significant upgrade, as Zoom announced on its blog, the service is
now using the AES 256-bit GCM encryption standard. That still isn`t end-to-end-encryption — which Zoom had originally, and erroneously, claimed to have — but it will make meetings much more secure.

Business users can also control which data center regions handle their video
calls to address concerns about routing meetings through China. Many of these new features were already available in the Zoom web interface.
Zoom is also introducing several new password measures, which seem designed to stop Zoom-bombing by trolls who disrupt random meetings.
Passwords will now be on by default for meetings hosted by Basic, single-license Pro, and K-12 customers. Waiting rooms will also be on by default, allowing hosts control over who enters the meeting. Business customers will be able to define the complexity of their meeting passwords (length, alphanumeric, and special character requirements). Cloud
recordings will also require passwords by default.

And for easier, one-click control of all these features, Zoom 5.0 adds an icon to
the host’s menu bar that goes to a security hub.

How to upgrade your Zoom Software

If you`re on Windows, Android, Linux or Mac you can upgrade to Zoom 5.0 today.

You may be prompted to update the client or app when you open it, or you can
manually get the update at Zoom`s Download Center.
If you`re on iOS, you`ll have to wait a little longer for Apple to vet the update.

Zoom`s increased security measures come at a time when the video
conferencing service has experienced huge growth. Last week, the company
announced it had surpassed 300 million daily Zoom meeting participants, up
50% from early April.

Still, Zoom`s privacy woes have made headlines and some businesses and
government entities have banned its use. And competitors are swimming
around like sharks: Facebook recently announcing its new free video calling
product, Messenger Rooms; Skype unveiled its free Meet Now service; and
Google Duo just got a huge upgrade.

Our best Zoom alternatives for video conferencing

Skype (free)

Meetings can hold up to 50 users, and users no longer need an account to join
in, just a link.

There is a text chat window, but otherwise Skype doesn`t have the meeting
organisation tools that the other Zoom alternatives have, but it`s free and can
be used on the web, Windows, Mac, iOS and Android.

Google Hangouts Meet (paid)

The paid version of the G-Suite (around $6 per user per month) includes
Hangouts Meet, which allows you to have video calls with up to 250 participants, hold presentations and record meetings and save them to the Drive. You can also send a meeting link to participants outside of your company.

The free version can connect up to 150 users, but doesn`t have presentation
features or the ability to record calls. Also, users must have a personal Google
account to join the video conference.

Discord (free)

This communication app is popular with gamers, but can be used by anyone
looking for encrypted chat, messaging and video calls. Users set up a dedicated “server”, which can be organised into rooms, similar to “Slack”, that host video and text-based chats.

Discord recently raised the limit for Go Live video calls from 10 users to 50, and the app is available on most web browsers, as well as Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS and Android.

Zoho Meeting (paid)

The open-source video conferencing service allows you to host end-to-end
encrypted video meetings and calls for up to 100 people. Participants don`t need to sign up for a login; they can access the meetings through a link or a dial-in via web browsers, desktop clients or mobile apps. Zoho has even provided a handy chart comparing its product to Zoom.

Zoho Meeting offers an array of meeting tools, like screen sharing, the ability to record calls and moderation (you can mute participants, for example). And you can easily pull in documents, spreadsheets and presentations since the service is integrated with Zoho`s Office suite. But note that there`s a different pricing plan for webinars, which may make it too costly.

Zoho Meeting pricing starts at $8 per month.

GoToMeeting (paid)

One of the first video conferencing services out there, GoToMeeting is a feature-packed Zoom alternative. The entry-level plan allows for 150 participants, while the enterprise plan can include up to 3,000.
GoToMeeting offers all the standard tools, like the ability to record meetings and share your screen. You can also have multiple meeting facilitators. And the service is accessible on web browsers, Mac, PC, Linux, iOS and Android.

GoToMeeting pricing starts at $12 per month.

Microsoft Teams (paid)

Microsoft turned its Skype for Business tool into Teams, which allows you to host video meetings for up to 250 people. Unlike Skype, Teams does offer standard video conferencing tools, like screen sharing and the ability to record meetings.

The Microsoft Teams is included with two different Office 365 plans, which also provide Office apps, 1 TB of OneDrive storage and more.

Microsoft Teams pricing starts at $5 per user per month.

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So, tell us, did we convince you to join the growing Zoom clan, or you`re already using it?

Do you fancy one of the alternatives mentioned above instead, or did we miss any another good option? Let us know.

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