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ICANN’s new conferencing software has a webcam security bug

Kevin Murphy, July 10, 2019, Domain Tech

ICANN can’t catch a break when it comes to remote participation security, it seems.

Having just recently made the community-wide switch away from Adobe Connect to Zoom, partly for security reasons, now Zoom has been hit by what many consider to be a critical zero-day vulnerability.

Zoom (which, irrelevantly, uses a .us domain) pushed out an emergency patch for the vulnerability yesterday, which would have allowed malicious web sites to automatically turn on visitors’ webcams without their consent.

Only users of the installable Mac client were affected.

According to security researcher Jonathan Leitschuh, who discovered the problem, Zoom’s Mac client was installing a web server on users’ machines in order to bypass an Apple security feature that requires a confirmatory click before the webcam turns on.

This meant a web site owner could trick a user into a Zoom session, with their camera turned on by default, without their knowledge or consent.

If you’re in the habit of keeping your webcam lens uncovered, that’s potentially a big privacy problem, especially if you do most of your remote coverage of ICANN meetings from the toilet.

It appears that Leitschuh, who reported the problem to Zoom three months ago, took issue with what he saw as the company’s ambivalent attitude to fixing it in a timely fashion.

When he finally blogged about it on Monday, after giving Zoom a 90-day “responsible disclosure” period to issue a patch, the problem still hadn’t been fully resolved, he wrote.

But, following media coverage, Zoom’s new patch apparently removes the covert web server completely. This removes the vulnerability but means Apple users will have to click a confirmation button before joining Zoom meetings in future.

Zoom is used now for all of ICANN’s remote participation, from sessions of its public meetings to discussions of its policy-making working groups.

I really like it. It feels a lot less clunky than Adobe, and it’s got some nifty extra features such as the ability to skip around in recordings based on an often-hilarious machine-transcription sidebar, which makes my life much easier.

One of the reasons ICANN made the switch was due to a bug found in Adobe Connect last year that could have been used to steal confidential information from closed meetings.

ICANN actually turned off Adobe Rooms for remote participants halfway through its public meeting in Puerto Rico due to the bug.

The switch to Zoom was hoped to save ICANN $100,000 a year.

ICANN waves goodbye to Adobe Connect over security, pricing

Kevin Murphy, April 4, 2019, Domain Policy

ICANN has decided to dump its longstanding web conferencing service provider, Adobe Connect, in favor of rival Zoom.

The organization reckons it could save as much as $100,000 a year, and mitigate some security fears, by making the switch.

Adobe has been the standard remote participation tool for not only ICANN’s public meetings, but also its policy-development working groups, for at least seven or eight years.

It enables video, audio, screen-sharing, public and private chat, voting and so on. ICANN says that Zoom has “nearly all of the same features”.

But some of ICANN’s more secretive bodies — including the Security and Stability Advisory Committee and Board Operations — have been using Zoom for a little over a year, after an SSAC member discovered a vulnerability in Adobe that allowed potentially sensitive information to be stolen.

A clincher appears to be Zoom’s voice over IP functionality, which ICANN says will enable it to drop Premiere Global Services Inc (PGi), its current, $500,000-a-year teleconferencing provider, which participants use if they dial in from on the road.

“Based on feedback, Zoom’s voice connectivity and overall experience seem to be superior to equivalent Adobe Connect experiences,” ICANN said.

As somebody who has lurked on more than his fair share of Adobe Connect rooms, I’ve noticed that people losing their voice connection is a very common occurrence, which can delay and break the flow of discussions, though it’s not usually clear where the blame lies.

According to a Zoom feature list (pdf) provided by ICANN, Zoom currently lacks many features on its web client, but updates are expected to bring the feature set in line with the mobile apps and PC/Mac executables by the end of the year.

ICANN expects to use Zoom exclusively by ICANN 65, in Marrakech this June. In the meantime, it will provide training to community members.

The cynic in me wants to say “expect teething troubles”, but the ICANN meetings team runs a pretty tight ship. The switch might be surprisingly smooth.