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Zoom Acquires Keybase, Plans for End-to-End Encrypted Chats

The company's first acquisition to date is part of a 90-day plan to improve security in its video communications platform.

Zoom has confirmed its acquisition of security company Keybase as part of its 90-day effort to strengthen protection in its communications platform. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

This marks the first acquisition for 9-year-old Zoom, which has fallen under great scrutiny as more businesses rely on its technology to communicate while working from home. Zoom usage has surged during the coronavirus pandemic: By late April, more than 300 million people were on the platform, up from about 10 million in December, CNBC reports. As usage has spiked, so too have security concerns related to weaknesses in Zoom's video communications technology.

The Keybase acquisition is part of Zoom's plan to create a secure, private, and scalable video communications tool that businesses need as more employees work remotely. Keybase, founded in 2014, has spent six years building a secure messaging and file-sharing service. Users can chat and share with team members and communities knowing that messages are end-to-end encrypted. 

Zoom plans to bring this to its paid accounts, which will have end-to-end encrypted meeting mode. Logged-in users will generate public cryptographic identities, which will be stored in a repository on Zoom's network and used to establish trust between attendees. 

"An ephemeral per-meeting symmetric key will be generated by the meeting host," Yuan explains in a blog post. "This key will be distributed between clients, enveloped with the asymmetric keypairs and rotated when there are significant changes to the list of attendees." The host will control cryptographic secrets, and the host's client software will determine which devices can receive meeting keys and join. These end-to-end encrypted meetings won't support phone bridges, cloud recording, or non-Zoom conferencing systems.

As part of the deal, Keybase's team members will become Zoom employees. It's unclear how Zoom plans to use Keybase's technology or what will happen to Keybase's product. Yuan's post does note the company plans to publish a draft cryptographic design on Friday, May 22.

Read more details in Yuan's blog post.

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