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Zoom could finally add end-to-end encyption — but for real this time

(Image credit: Smith Collection/Gado / Getty Images)

Zoom is finally addressing a significant security complaint about the service that emerged back in March, following its massive spike in users due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders. 

One of the earliest revelations was that Zoom didn't provide actual end-to-end encryption, which was a prime motivator for the company's move to freeze feature updates for 90 days. But today, Zoom announced the acquisition of Keybase, a company that should allow Zoom to actually deliver the end-to-end encryption it claimed to have (via TechCrunch).

It's an excellent acquisition for Zoom as Keybase has been building end-to-end encryption products for six years. The company will become a subsidiary of Zoom under the deal with its team moving over to join Zoom. Keybase's own secure messaging and file-sharing platform will be staying around for at least the immediate future.

On the Keybase blog, the company stated, "Initially, our single top priority is helping to make Zoom even more secure." Given everything we know about Zoom's security, this is plenty to keep them busy for a while.

The precise timeline for the integration of full end-to-end encryption to Zoom is not known; the company only indicated that it would be publishing a draft cryptographic design on May 22 and would be working with a range of customers and experts from there to come up with a final design and begin setting timelines for deployment.

What is already known is that end-to-end encryption will be in a specific mode that is available to all paid accounts. Zoom admits encryption will not be supported in all of its features, including "phone bridges, cloud recording, or non-Zoom conference room systems." Furthermore, "Zoom Rooms and Zoom Phone participants will be able to attend if explicitly allowed by the host."

Over the first month of Zoom's feature freeze, the company has implemented security updates that likely meet the needs of most consumers (like a solution to Zoombombing). However, the acquisition of Keybase and the development of true end-to-end encryption are critical to Zoom's continued success in the enterprise market.