Coronavirus: Congressman wants Zoom meetings banned after being ‘Zoom-bombed’ multiple times

Jim Jordan claims meeting on women's rights in Afghanistan was repeatedly interrupted, but Democrats deny disruptions

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Saturday 11 April 2020 21:48
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Ohio congressman Jim Jordan has called for an end to Zoom video conference meetings citing potential security concerns.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee, of which Mr Jordan is the top Republican member, has been conducting business using the remote meeting software to comply with social distancing rules to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

In a letter to the committee chairwoman, New York representative Carolyn Maloney, Mr Jordan said that Zoom did not appear to meet required security standards and has concerns about China’s involvement with the company.

He claimed that a recent briefing on women's rights in Afghanistan was repeatedly “Zoom-bombed,” a term for when uninvited individuals disrupt meetings.

“The impact of hacking on malware on member and staff devices is still being determined,” Mr Jordan said in the letter.

A Republican aide told The Hill that “unauthorised callers from unknown entities tried no fewer than three times to infiltrate a meeting meant only for members of Congress and their staff, which resulted in significant interruption and delay.”

However, a Democratic aide denied that there were any security disruptions for the committee either during the Afghanistan briefing or another Zoom meeting with the Postmaster General.

They claimed that there had simply been miscommunication where the moderator was not informed about who was invited to the Afghanistan briefing.

Representative Maloney released a statement that said: “Representative Jordan’s office was consulted directly and repeatedly about using Zoom and never raised any concerns, so it’s unfortunate that he is now putting out inaccurate information in this public letter. Had his office consulted with us first, we could have clarified their misunderstandings and provided more information about the steps the committee has already taken to address any potential issues.”

She added “The committee has used a number of technologies to help its members obtain information and share it with the American people during this crisis, and it will continue to do so to fulfill its responsibilities under the Constitution.”

A Monday readout after the video briefing made no mention of the interruptions or possible security issues. It did say: “our committee will continue to leverage new and emerging technologies to follow social distancing guidelines and conduct our work remotely.”

Mr Jordan noted in his letter that the Senate sergeant-at-arms has warned not to use Zoom for work calls due to privacy and security concerns. The FBI has also issued warnings against using Zoom for meetings.

School teachers work together from their homes during lockdown (AFP via Getty Images)

Zoom says that it is in communication with the Senate about its tailored Zoom for Government offering.

The concerns about using Zoom come as lawmakers try to figure out ways to conduct congressional business while away from the Capitol during the coronavirus pandemic.

Representatives have called on congressional leaders to establish a remote voting system to allow business to continue. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is supportive, but has also said that it is easier said than done to figure out a secure and reliable way for lawmakers to vote remotely.

Zoom is one of several platforms that have exploded in popularity as people turned to remote working and remote socialising with friends during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

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