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Zoom, digital sovereignty and “the security imperative in the age of telework”

Eric Yuan, head of the American videoconferencing platform Zoom, in New York, in April 2019. Carlo Allegri / REUTERS

Profits and losses. The minister responsible for digital, Cédric O, produced his little effect before the deputies, Tuesday, May 5. While all political hierarchs are gargling with the word “sovereignty”, he pointed out to them that the videoconference system through which they communicated with him, the American platform Zoom, posed a problem for him. “I am aware that in terms of user experience, this is probably the best solution, but it still poses real questions in terms of France's strategic independence”, he launched them, recalling that its services strongly advise against its use, given the gaps in data protection, and that French alternatives exist.

Read also The meteoric rise of the Zoom application slowed down by security vulnerabilities

Zoom has become the most downloaded Internet application in the world due to the health crisis, with nearly 300 million users. Not bad for a solution launched in 2012 in Silicon Valley by a Sino-American engineer, Eric Yuan, who emigrated fifteen years earlier to California. Like everyone, parliamentarians were won over by the simplicity of this free application, which requires no download. This mishap calls for two remarks.

Negligence

First, despite what is said too easily, the world of technology is not just the quintet Google-Apple-Facebook-Amazon-Microsoft. None of them, any more than Cisco, however industry leader, was able to compete with Zoom in its ease of use, access, and in the quality of its service. Eric Yuan worked at Cisco in the 2000s. He suggested that they develop a simple application that works entirely on the Internet and can be used on a smartphone. The firm did not want it. Google or Facebook are trying to catch up. It is the strength of Silicon Valley to constantly bring up new competitors.

But this story also highlights the neglect of everyone, MP or entrepreneur of start-up, to take into account the security imperative in the age of telework. Hacking Zoom was easy; the system has been hacked. Today, other attackers are attacking, on order, pharmaceutical companies and health agencies in countries fighting the Covid-19. Cyber ​​warfare knocks on our door. And we are not ready for that either. As if we were suddenly thrown, by the fault of a virus, into a future whose codes we have not assimilated, that of digital civilization.

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