Zoom unveils $600 video conferencing device for home workers 

Sci-Tech


Zoom has announced a dedicated video-conferencing device aimed specifically at home workers and retailing for a whopping $600 (about £475). 

The US firm is taking advantage of a huge boom in users of its video-conferencing software during the coronavirus pandemic with its first ever physical product. 

‘Zoom for Home’ is a 27-inch touchscreen device with three wide-angle cameras for high-resolution video calls and an eight-microphone array for clearer audio.  

The device can be used independently of a computer, as well as being a second screen during Zoom meetings, and dwarfs a standard laptop. 

As a second screen, home users are given a whole extra display for video calls, meaning they don’t have to toggle between their work and the Zoom application. 

Zoom from Home users can get on with their work on their desktop or laptop while keeping an eye on their colleagues thanks to the generous display.  

Zoom said the new device is expected to go on sale next month, but the firm has not yet confirmed an exact price for the product in the UK. 

Pictured is the 27-inch Zoom for Home touchscreen device (left) next to a  laptop. It can be used for presenting and annotating information on-screen, and can be used independently of a computer

Users of the device, made by US-based firm DTEN, can log into Zoom with their existing credentials to present and annotate information on-screen.     

The rise of home working during the pandemic was a key factor in the creation of the new device, the company has admitted. 

The video conferencing app came to prominence during the coronavirus lockdown as millions turned to the service to help communicate with colleagues while working from home. 

Zoom previously said in April that it has around 300 million daily Zoom meeting participants globally, while in the UK, user numbers rose from 659,000 UK users in January to 13 million in April, according to Ofcom. 

Zoom from Home users can get on with their work on their laptop while keeping an eye on their colleagues

Zoom from Home users can get on with their work on their laptop while keeping an eye on their colleagues

‘After experiencing remote work ourselves for the past several months, it was clear that we needed to innovate a new category dedicated to remote workers,’ said Eric Yuan, Zoom’s chief executive.

‘I’m so proud of the team for continuing to think outside the box and prove why Zoom is the best unified communications platform that can meet the needs of all types of users.’    

The huge rise in subscriber numbers over the lockdown has also boosted the company’s profile and attracted the interest of cyber criminals.  

But despite being busy with its efforts to boost the security of the platform, the company is now tapping into the hardware market.   

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan, seen here at the firm's IPO in New York in April 2019, said the rise of home working during the pandemic was a key factor in the creation of the new device

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan, seen here at the firm’s IPO in New York in April 2019, said the rise of home working during the pandemic was a key factor in the creation of the new device

The company previously launched a programme of security upgrades in April to improve its privacy settings. 

As part of that programme, the company has released a number of security updates designed to better secure user accounts and prevent strangers from breaking into meetings – incidents which had become known as ‘Zoombombing’. 

Sometimes those disruptions have included broadcasting porn in video chats or intruders making vulgar or racist comments. 

It was already reported that Zoom credentials belonging to more than 500,000 Zoom users were stolen and sold on the dark web for less than a penny each.

The information was obtained through ‘credential stuff’, where data previously leaked in breaches are used to access different services.

Security company Cyble first noticed an influx of Zoom accounts for purchase in a hacker forum on April 1 and were able to obtain 530,000 for just $0.002 each – although some were also being shared for free.

The credentials included personal meeting URLs, email addresses and passwords, along with host keys that allow them to enter meetings and carry out ‘Zoomboming’ attacks.

Back in March, Zoom was also found to be sharing sensitive data with Facebook – such as the exact time the Zoom app was opened, phone carrier, device specs and location – to help inform the social network’s targeted ads.   

WHAT IS ZOOM DOING TO ADDRESS SECURITY CONCERNS?  

To address concerns, the company has hired former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos as an adviser.

It also formed an advisory board to look into its privacy and safety practices.

Zoom has also sent out an update with a new security menu to make accessing privacy tools easier.

The platform has introduced a dedicated security icon at the bottom of the screen from which users can quickly access all the app’s safety features. 

The new menu now allows to update security settings while live in a call for the first time, rather than making meeting hosts set security settings before a call.

This was something critics said was leading to gaps in meeting security and privacy, because users unaware of all Zoom’s safety features often started meetings without seeing all the options.

In addition to the new centralised security menu, Zoom said meeting IDs would no longer be displayed on the title toolbar.

The company said this was to prevent others seeing active meeting IDs when ‘Zoom screenshots are posted publicly’, and using the information to crash meetings.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was criticised when hosting a virtual Cabinet meeting on the platform last month, after he revealed the meeting ID and usernames of several Cabinet ministers by posting a screenshot to Twitter.

 



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