Archives

taiwan

Taiwan tells government agencies to stop using Zoom

Taiwan tells government agencies to stop using Zoom

Taiwan has told all government agencies to stop using Zoom, citing security and privacy concerns with the video-conferencing service. 

On Tuesday, Taiwan’s executive branch issued the advisory, which is also directed to “specific non-government agencies.” In response, Taiwan’s education ministry has banned local schools from using Zoom. 

The advisory doesn’t spell out the security and privacy concerns it has with Zoom. But in the US, the product has faced a wave of hijacking attempts from pranksters, online trolls, and racists out to infiltrate people’s video sessions. At the same time, security researchers have been uncovering vulnerabilities in the product, which could be abused to hack a user. Read more…

More about Taiwan, Zoom, Tech, and Cybersecurity

Taiwan’s government bars its agencies from using Zoom over security concerns

Taiwan’s Executive Yuan issued an advisory on Tuesday barring the country’s government agencies from using Zoom and other video software with “associated security or privacy concerns.” Instead, the government said alternatives, including software from Google and Microsoft, should be considered.

Many organizations have been relying on Zoom to holding meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the video conferencing app has also been criticized for security and privacy issues.

Government agencies in other countries have also restricted the use of Zoom, though Taiwan’s ban is one of the most sweeping so far. For example, New York City officials said that schools are no longer allowed to use Zoom for remote teaching and Australia’s Defence Force and its MPs are no longer allowed to use the service.

The announcement from the Taiwanese government said, “The Executive Yuan’s Department of Cyber Security (DCS) today formally issued an advisory to all government organizations and specific non-government agencies that should it become operationally necessary to engage in video conferencing, the underlying video software to be used should not have associated security or privacy concerns, such as the Zoom video communication service.”

The DCS added that “if the organization must use non-domestically produced software for international exchanges or some other special situation, many global and communication giants—like Google and Microsoft—are offering such technology for free amid the current pandemic. Organizations should consider these options after evaluating any associated data security risks.”

On April 1, Zoom founder and CEO Eric Yuan wrote on the company’s blog that “usage of Zoom has ballooned overnight—far surpassing what we expected when we first announced our desire to help in late February,” with more than 200 million daily meeting participants in March, up from 10 million in December.

He apologized for the company’s security issues, writing that “we are looking into each and every one of them and addressing them as expeditiously as we can.”

In March, as usage suddenly increased due to the pandemic, “ZoomBombing” became an issue, with people using the software’s screen-sharing feature to interrupt meetings with inappropriate content, including violent images and pornography. The Intercept also reported that Zoom video calls are not end-to-end encrypted, like the company claimed. Last week, Citizen Lab researchers said they had found that some calls were routed through China.

TechCrunch has contacted Zoom for comment.

Pre-school EdTech startup Lingumi raises £4m, adds some free services during Covid-19

At these difficult times, parents are concerned for their children’s education, especially given so much of it has had to go online during the Covid-19 pandemic. But what about pre-schoolers who are missing out?

Pre-school children are sponges for information but don’t get formal training on reading and writing until they enter the classroom when they are less sponge-like and surrounded by 30 other children. Things are tougher for non-English speaking children who’s parents want them to learn English.

Lingumi, a platform aimed at toddlers learning critical skills, has now raised £4 million in a funding round led by China-based technology fund North Summit Capital – a fund run by Alibaba’s former Chief Data Scientist Dr Min Wanli – alongside existing investors LocalGlobe, ADV, and Entrepreneur First.

The startup, launched in 2017, is also announcing the launch of daily free activity packs and videos to support children and families during the COVID-19 outbreak, and has pledged to donate 20% of its sales during this period to the Global Children’s Fund.

Lingumi’s interactive courses offer one-to-one tutoring with a kind ‘social learning’ and its first course helps introduce key English grammar and vocabulary from the age of 2.

Instead of tuning into live lessons with tutors, which are typically timetabled and expensive, Lingumi’s lessons are delivered through interactive speaking tasks, teacher videos, and games. At the end of each lesson, children can see videos of Lingumi friends speaking the same words and phrases as them. Because the kids are watching videos, Lingumi is cheaper than live courses, and thus more flexible for parents.

The company launched the first Lingumi course in China last year, focused on teaching spoken English to non-English speakers. The platform is now being used by more than 100,000 families globally, including in mainland China, Taiwan, UK, Germany, Italy, and France. More than 1.5 million English lessons have taken place in China over the past six months, and 40% of active users are also playing lessons daily. Lingumi says its user base grew 50% during China’s lockdown and it has had a rapid uptake in Europe.

“Lingumi’s rapid expansion in the Chinese market required a strategic local investor, and Dr Min and the team had a clear-sighted understanding of the technology and scale opportunity both in China, and globally.”

Dr Wanli Min, general partner at North Summit Capital, commented: “It is only the most privileged children who can access native English speakers for one-on-one tutoring… Lingumi has the potential to democratize English learning and offer every kid a personalized curriculum empowered by AI & Lingumi’s ‘asynchronous teaching; model.”

Competitors to include Lingumi include live teaching solutions like VIPKid, and learning platforms like Jiliguala in China, or Lingokids in the West.