Apple updates Mac to fix faulty video conferencing app

Apple quietly updates Macs to remove Zoom webcam exploit

Jonathan Leitschuh, the tech veteran who first spotted the problem late this March said that the problem is caused by the way Zoom is programmed to set up meetings and video conferences. Now, according to a report by TechCrunch, Apple has pushed out an update silently to the macOS which removes the Zoom web server. When users visited these websites again, an attacker could have easily accessed the victim's webcam at any time via the web server; and being a standalone software, the web server remains in the Macs that had Zoom installed, and stays there even when the app is removed completely by the user.

If a user has ever installed the Zoom client and then uninstalled it, the Mac still has a localhost web server that will re-install the Zoom client, without requiring any user interaction besides visiting a webpage. The update will now prompt Mac users to voluntarily open the app, instead of opening it automatically as it did previously. It's used by 750,000 companies around the world to conduct their business, including such big names as Nasdaq, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The update is not that indispensable since the app has already issued its patch, but this ensures that people running older Zoom releases won't be vulnerable as before.

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A zero-day Zoom vulnerability could allow third parties to snoop on videoconferencing calls, reactivate uninstalled apps and conduct other malicious activities. Since Mac computers have different architecture compared to Windows-based ones, Zoom for Mac installs a standalone web server on every computer to make connectivity easier.

If you uninstall Zoom, that web server persists and can reinstall Zoom without your guidance.

"We appreciate the hard work of the security researcher in identifying security concerns on our platform", wrote the company. The tech giant noted it took this step "to protect users from the risks posed by the exposed web server". "A very poor decision by the folks at Zoom". This is the process ID number of Zoom's phantom web server.

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