Why are Schools Switching from Zoom to Microsoft Teams?

Concerns about subpar cybersecurity measures recently resulted in U.S. school departments banning Zoom in favor of Microsoft Teams.

Educational leaders in districts that include New York City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., among others, agreed to distance themselves from the videoconferencing app used in remote learning over issues that include harassment, privacy, and security.

Schools Switching From Zoom to Microsoft Teams

FBI Issues Zoom Use Warning

According to an incident in the Boston area, the FBI reported that Zoom was penetrated in two Massachusetts-based schools by hackers who disrupted teacher-student interactions. The FBI’s Boston office, which covers Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, issued the following strong warnings.

  • Do not make meetings or classrooms public. In Zoom, there are two options to make a meeting private: require a meeting password or use the waiting room feature and control the admittance of guests.
  • Do not share a link to a teleconference or classroom on an unrestricted publicly available social media post. Provide the link directly to specific people.
  • Manage screen-sharing options. In Zoom, change screen sharing to “Host Only.”
  • Ensure users are using the updated version of remote access/meeting applications. In January 2020, Zoom updated their software. In their security update, the teleconference software provider added passwords by default for meetings and disabled the ability to randomly scan for meetings to join.
  • Lastly, ensure that your organization’s telework policy or guide addresses requirements for physical and information security.

After the COVID-19 crisis prompted public and private schools to shift to virtual learning, Zoom enjoyed top-tier popularity among educators. But since it became a high-profile hacker target, there have been reports of pornography appearing and gaps in cybersecurity.

“I don’t know that Zoom is any worse, and it may in many ways be better than a lot of the platforms out there, especially when it comes to security, accessibility and certainly when it comes to ease of use,” the Future of Privacy Forum expert Amelia Vance reportedly said. “And now Zoom has the very difficult task of attempting to regain trust.”

Vance indicated that Zoom was not necessarily created as an educational platform. Her recommendations include niche apps such as Google’s G Suite for Education. School districts are also considering packages such as Google Hangouts, WebEx, and Microsoft Teams until the pandemic subsides.

School Departments Adopt Microsoft Teams

According to a report by the Washington Post, the NYC Education Department has selected Microsoft Teams as its preferred option.

“Providing a safe and secure remote learning experience for our students is essential, and upon further review of security concerns, schools should move away from using Zoom as soon as possible. There are many new components to remote learning, and we are making real-time decisions in the best interest of our staff and student,” department spokesperson Danielle Filson reportedly said. “We will support staff and students in transitioning to different platforms such as Microsoft Teams that have the same capabilities with appropriate security measures in place.”

The platform has enjoyed unprecedented use since COVID-19 forced wide-ranging businesses to shift to remote workforces. As Stay at Home and Shelter in Place mandates were issued, Microsoft Teams saw a user increase of 37 percent during a single week in March. Activity reportedly surged to 44 million users, and recent data indicates 2.7 billion meeting minutes are logged daily.

The application was already considered a flagship product, and the headline-grabbing breaches of Zoom are expected to galvanize Teams’ position as a leading enterprise-level product.