Isuru Karunatillaka /HIGHLANDER

Once a nameless conference app, Zoom is now a worldwide connective that has allowed businesses and especially education to continue functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, ever since the rise of usage of this video conferencing app, its users have begun to recognize its security problems as well. 

For example, many educators have been the victims of “Zoombombing,” a form of harassment that involves unwanted, or otherwise uninvited individuals intruding and disrupting their online lectures. Students who release the class Zoom ID and password allow these outsiders to use the lecture call as their playground. Although this particular issue can be found within the invitees, intruders have more leeway to play certain pranks. These pranks can range from having inappropriate background images to playing loud music without enabling the mute function. Even though the host has the ability to kick them out, they can easily come back in as long as they have the ID and password. 

These lectures have already been paid for through students’ tuition, and those students were under the impression that these classes would be held in person. However, due to uncontrollable circumstances, our entire education system has moved to an online platform, and this new system is nowhere near as effective as an in-person lecture. When these unknown, uninvited participants enter these lectures they’re taking up seats in a class that has a maximum number of students allowed to attend.

These issues are not limited to educators; our government has also acknowledged Zoom’s security oversights. Although the use of Zoom has not been banned, elected officials have been highly discouraged from using the conference app. They too have noticed the aforementioned issue of the app being prone to uninvited members joining and disrupting meetings with negative and inappropriate content.

While it may seem Zoom has taken over the videoconferencing app market, there are alternatives that offer better security options, though these alternatives have their limits as well. For example, Cisco Web is designed to support business and provide them with convenient conference calls. However, unlike Zoom, it has a limit of 100 participants, which isn’t ideal for college professors. That being said, there is no time limit as the 40 minute time limit Zoom has for its free accounts. 

Another possible alternative is Microsoft Teams. Although this alternative also has a limit on the number of participants, unlike Zoom you can blur inappropriate backgrounds, save conversations and communicate in designated channels. Although it requires a paid subscription to Office 365, most universities provide this subscription for their students so they can access it right away without paying.

UCR’s continued use of Zoom as the primary method for holding class raises a normative concern. Though students who have found it difficult to adapt to the online experience might find it a hassle to adapt to a new online platform, UCR faculty should find safer and better alternatives for the sake of their students, at least until the platform’s security issues are resolved.