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May 7, 2020updated 12 May 2020 9:18am

Zoom acquires Keybase to add end-to-end encryption to videoconferencing

By Lucy Ingham

Videoconferencing giant Zoom has today announced that it is acquiring secure messaging and file-sharing service Keybase for an undisclosed amount.

The acquisition is designed to enable Zoom to accelerate its plans to add end-to-end encryption to its platform – an area it has previously come under fire for.

At the end of March, the company attracted considerable criticism for claiming to offer end-to-end encryption in some marketing materials, but in reality only offering TLS, the security technology used to secure HTTPS websites. This means that while data transmitted between a user and Zoom is currently secure, the company can access unencrypted video and audio content of users.

This and a number of other security concerns have caused the service to be banned for use by some governments and inflicted considerable reputational damage on Zoom, prompting it to launch a 90-day plan to fix the problems.

End-to-end encryption has clearly been identified as a key part of this by Zoom, making the acquisition of Keybase a key part of its strategy.

“There are end-to-end encrypted communications platforms. There are communications platforms with easily deployable security. There are enterprise-scale communications platforms,” said Eric S Yuan, CEO of Zoom.

“We believe that no current platform offers all of these. This is what Zoom plans to build, giving our users security, ease of use, and scale, all at once .”

In a blog post announcing the acquisition, the company said that it planned to offer an “end-to-end encrypted meeting mode to all paid accounts”, saying this would happen in the “near future”.

Keybase: The company bringing end-to-end encryption to Zoom

Founded in 2014 by Max Krohn and Chris Coyne, Keybase raised $10.8m in a Series A funding round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz in 2015.

It currently offers text-based chat and file sharing through end-to-end encryption, built on a platform using public key cryptography, and which supports multiple devices per user and scaling for teams.

As a result, Zoom has identified Keybase as a vital missing piece of its encryption puzzle.

“Keybase brings deep encryption and security expertise to Zoom, and we’re thrilled to welcome Max and his team,” said Yuan.

“Bringing on a cohesive group of security engineers like this significantly advances our 90-day plan to enhance our security efforts.”

“Keybase is thrilled to join Team Zoom!” added Max Krohn, Keybase.io co-founder and developer.

“Our team is passionate about security and privacy, and it is an honour to be able to bring our encryption expertise to a platform used by hundreds of millions of participants a day.”

Read more: Zoom partners with Otter.ai for live transcriptions