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Zoom crash leaves minister unconnected

Video conference platform Zoom went down on Sunday, 16 May, leaving journalists unable to ask questions at the Downing Street press conference.

Users reported issues with the app from 9am, with many experiencing audio and video problems.

Members of the press were required to submit written questions rather than quizzing business secretary Alok Sharma (pictured right) on screen in the usual format.

Minister Sharma read the questions aloud before they were answered by him or professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director for England.

Thousands of people were affected in the UK, according to the website DownDetector. A Zoom spokesman said: “Our team is investigating the root cause of issues joining Zoom Meetings. These issues appear to be limited to a subset of users.”

The issue was solved in the evening, according to the app’s social media account.

The spokesman added: “We continue to assess & monitor. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this might have caused.”

The timing of the problems meant some church services were affected and astronomy meetings were also among the events affected by Zoom’s outage. Zoom has grown in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic, with millions relying on the site to connect with friends, family or colleagues due to lockdown restrictions.

The app’s rise in popularity, from around 10m users to 200m, has been met with growing concerns over the platform’s security.

In March, Boris Johnson’s Cabinet began using Zoom to hold meetings after Ministry of Defence staff were banned from using it while “security implications” were investigated.

Amid the rise in Zoom users, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said it was investigating multiple reports that child abuse footage has been played by strangers who force their way into calls.

Zoom apologised and said it would fix any issues flagged to it, accepting it had to do more to protect users. The platform later revealed the new version of the app includes an upgraded encryption standard, a new, clearer security icon to access the safety settings, a tool to report users and new password controls.

The ability for users to control which data centres their meeting data is routed through was also added after it emerged some meeting data could have been routed through servers in China.