It's Official: Most Zoom Versions Now Off-Limits to the Military

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The website of  Zoom Video Communications Inc is seen on April 4, 2020.
In this photo illustration, the website of Zoom Video Communications Inc is seen on April 4, 2020 in Katwijk, Netherlands. (Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images)

The popular free video conferencing application Zoom is now officially off-limits to Defense Department personnel due to increased security concerns, even as military officials are encouraging increased telework during the coronavirus pandemic.

Service members, contractors and civilians can no longer use Zoom in an official capacity, said Air Force Lt. Col Robert Carver, a Pentagon spokesman. Voice of America was first to report the ban on Friday following a warning from the Federal Bureau of Investigations last week stating the video meeting app has seen an uptick in uninvited participants infiltrating sessions -- a phenomenon known as "Zoombombing."

"The department requires our workforce only use DoD-approved platforms when conducting official business," Carver said in a statement to Military.com Monday. Carver said that DoD users may not host meetings using Zoom's free or commercial offerings, but can use "Zoom for Government."

Related: Army Follows Pentagon Guidance, Bans TikTok

The reason Zoom for Government can be used is because it's been issued a Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) provisional authorization, he said. According to FedRAMP, the program manages and matures information technology, standardizing practices with increased security for government agencies.

With the addition of FedRAMP, Zoom for Government is allowed, but only to transmit or discuss "publicly-releasable DoD information not categorized as For Official Use Only," Carver added.

Individuals are still free to access whatever applications they'd like on personal devices such as cell phones and computers. While conducting official business, however, only DoD-authorized devices or approved platforms are acceptable, he said.

Additionally, there are a number of teleworking tools DoD personnel can use for collaborating on official business, such as Milsuite.mil, Global Video Services Unclassified, or GVS-U, among others. A full list can be found here.

Zoom has sharply risen in popularity since the spread of coronavirus ended group gatherings forced many to work from home.

But schools and businesses using the platform have lately issued their own warnings stating that "zoom raiders" have begun infiltrating meetings with malicious intent. The New York Times this month reported multiple instances of online abuse, ranging from unwanted pornographic images to instances of verbal harassment.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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