Silicon Valley video conferencing platform Zoom has enjoyed an explosion in use since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just three months ago 10 million people people used the service each day. Now 200m do – and as lockdown rules continue worldwide, that figure is set to rise.
As one might expect, Zoom’s share price has risen too – from $76 at the end of January to almost $142 today. But that only tells part of the story. And a series of security bombshells could bring the company’s dominance to an abrupt end.
Recent revelations include incidents of “zoombombing”—i.e. uninvited people joining group conversations—a lack of end-to-end encryption, routing through China and data sharing with Facebook. Email phishing scams have also reportedly focused on users’ Zoom accounts.
The firm has moved swiftly to counter its Facebook and zoombombing issues. But questions remain as to whether it’s the best place to conduct sensitive corporate operations, or educate a class of schoolchildren.
So concerned is Google with Zoom’s security, that today it ordered its 103,000-plus staff not to use the platform on their laptops. This may have as much to do with Google’s Zoom competitor platform Meet. Nonetheless, it’s not great PR.
Alex Stamos, formerly of Facebook and now an outside consultant for Zoom, has compared the sudden ubiquity of Zoom to masses wanting suddenly to drive their cars on water. “While the average user talking about their daily activities with their family over Zoom are probably fine, I would recommend sticking with the platforms created by more mature companies,” security expert Patrick Wardle told the New York Times.
Cisco is probably best-placed to sweep up any Zoom-doubters. Its WebEx service, which is end-to-end encrypted, claims 324m users. Relative newcomer Teams, from Microsoft, has reached 44m from just 20m in November. Most experts expect it to gather place as the Coronavirus crisis pushes into the middle of the calendar year.
The virus, which has claimed over 171,000 lives to date, has forced millions of employees worldwide to work from home – with around 5% of Americans now thought to be “home-officing.”
That will rise as measures to reduce infection continue worldwide. Zoom’s share price has wobbled upon its most recent setbacks. There is no reason to believe it cannot continue dominating the video conferencing market. But unless it moves swiftly to retain corporate and other sensitive customers, working from home may be a tech vertical that fragments in the coming months.