British Intelligence Advises Government Officials to Not Use Zoom Because of Chinese Espionage Efforts

British lawmakers and government officials have been advised to not use the video conferencing platform Zoom because of concerns regarding Chinese surveillance, according to a report from Guardian on April 24, 2020. The UK intelligence agency, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), warded against using Zoom for official or confidential activities, namely in instances related to China.

Legal Insurrection noted that this news comes at a time when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been using the video conferencing service to conduct Cabinet meetings in response to the Wuhan virus outbreak, the BBC reported. Across the pond in the United States, the service was also being used by military and government officials, according to recent news reports.

Zoom, is headquartered in Silicon Valley and is managed by entities operated in China, thus making the platform susceptible to espionage from the Chinese government. The company was “transmitting information through China,” the BBC noted referencing British cyber security experts. .

Zoom became widely popular among users of all backgrounds in the aftermath of worldwide lockdowns and disruptions caused by the Wuhan virus outbreak. The company reports that its number of daily users went from 10 million back in December to 300 million in early April.

The Guardian reported the intelligence agency GCHQ’s warning:

Government and parliament were told by the intelligence agencies last week not to use the videoconferencing service Zoom for confidential business, due to fears it could be vulnerable to Chinese surveillance.

The quiet warnings to limit the technology came after the cabinet had used Zoom to hold a well-publicised meeting at the end of March, a decision that was defended at the time as necessary in ‘unprecedented circumstances’.

The National Cyber Security Centre advised Parliament last week to only use Zoom for public business.

The FBI has also expressed concerns about the cyber security threats that Zoom presents. According to FBI analysis, the hackers could use the app to “steal sensitive information, target individuals and businesses performing financial transactions, and engage in extortion.”

Researchers at the University of Toronto found out that Zoom’s encryption keys were issued by Chinese servers “even when call participants were outside of China.”  Consequently, calls are susceptible to Chinese spying efforts, the Business Insider magazine reported. After these concerns surfaced, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan admitted routing “some calls” conducted in North America through China “by mistake.”

Taiwan and Australia, countries where China flexes geopolitically, have already banned the usage of Zoom in certain governmental functions. In addition, Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX has dropped the service due to similar concerns.

China is using a unique way to flex its geopolitical muscles.

Abandoning past forms of warfare, China is engaged in technological and economic warfare in the U.S.

This will require the U.S. to rethink its trade and immigration policies with China.

The East Asian country is playing the long game and hopes to not fire a single shot in its quest to become a superpower.