Zoom hires former US National Security Adviser to address concerns

HR McMaster is a former army lieutenant general who served in President Donald Trump’s administration

(FILES) In this file photo illustration taken on March 29, 2020, a Zoom App logo is displayed on a smartphone in Arlington, Virginia.  

Facebook on April 24, 2020, took aim at videoconferencing startup Zoom with virtual "rooms" where friends can pop in for visits via online video as part of an effort to help users locked down during the pandemic.
 / AFP / Olivier DOULIERY
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Zoom Video hired US President Donald Trump's former National Security Adviser in a bid to address concerns about the security of its app.

HR McMaster, who is a former army lieutenant general and served in Mr Trump's administration in 2017 and 2018, is now an independent director on the company's board, Zoom Video said in a blog.

“My goal is to help the company navigate rapid growth and assist in meeting Zoom’s commitment to becoming the world’s most secure video communications platform,” said Mr McMaster.

“Zoom does significant good for our society … allowing people to connect and collaborate face-to-face from anywhere. This extraordinary capability is vital now more than ever."

Zoom is being used much more widely during the Covid-19 pandemic, as workplaces and schools have been closed in a bid to limit movement. It has been adopted by businesses, schools, universities and by individuals for social purposes, as well as for entertainment and fitness classes.

The company's shares have more than doubled since January and its market capitalisation stands at $41.7 billion (Dh153.1bn).

During his decorated military career, Mr McMaster built expertise in leading through “challenging situations and has demonstrated tremendous strength of character”, said Zoom’s chief executive Eric Yuan.

“His leadership will be invaluable as Zoom continues to enable people to connect on a global scale,” he added.

The company has also hired Jonathan Kallmer, executive vice president for policy at the Information Technology Industry Council, a Washington-based trade association, as its new head of global public policy and government relations.

“I am excited to join this team that shares my policy priorities of communicating honestly, building trust, and developing understanding of innovation and technology in governments around the world,” said Mr Kallmer.

The current number of daily meeting participants across Zoom’s paid and free services has surged to 300 million, from about 10 million in December.

But the practice of "Zoombombing" – gatecrashing other people's meetings – has presented problems for the company and increased scrutiny of its software encryption. Other concerns have arisen regarding how the company has shared users' data.

The company, which went public in April 2019, said that the offices of more than 25 attorneys general in the US had raised questions about privacy issues and it is working with the authorities.

Many organisations, including Google, Daimler and SpaceX, have already barred the use of the app due to security concerns. Government agencies in Taiwan and Singapore have banned the app, pointing out its vulnerabilities to hacking.

Hackers also reportedly put up half a million Zoom logins for sale on the dark web, which were bought by a cyber security intelligence company. Zoom, in response, said it was common for bad actors to test large numbers of already compromised credentials from other platforms to see if they’ve been reused.