Toronto tech firm offers secure alternative to Zoom

Debbie Lawes
April 29, 2020

The head of a small Toronto tech company says there is a secure, made-in-Canada alternative to the US-headquartered Zoom video conferencing platform that Canadian MPs began using this week for their first virtual sitting, despite concerns with security and cyber hijacks.

Jason Martin is president and CEO of Iotum, a 15-year old web conferencing provider better known internationally than within Canada.

“Almost 95% of our customers are outside of Canada. We’re utterly unknown in Canada,” Martin said in an interview with Research Money over the Callbridge platform.

Brand recognition appears secondary to its security and functionality. Corporations like PCCW in Hong Kong subscribe to the service – described a “white label platform – and then resell it under their own brand.

“They do that specifically to compete against Zoom,” says Martin.

Callbridge’s biggest selling point is its security. It uses a protocol called WebRTC (real-time communication), considered one of the most secure voice and video calling technologies on the market.

Zoom's downside, says Martin, is that the app operates inside the browser, which means it is downloaded directly onto your computer.

In comparison, he says Callbridge “is like standing on the front porch. It doesn’t let you into the house, or computer as it were. It’s a more secure way to have a channel into the functionality of your computer.”

In addition to standard encryption, Callbridge has other security features like one-time, unique PIN codes and the ability of moderators to “lock the room”, preventing what has become known as cyber hijacks or “zoombombing” where uninvited attendees break into and disrupt a meeting.

“It means the meeting can be very private and very secure,” he adds.

A recent report by researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab notes that Zoom’s efforts to reduce friction in videoconferencing to make things “just work” have also, by design, reduced privacy or security. For example, Zoom does not have “true end-to-end encryption”, though the company recently said it has changed its practices. Citizen Lab also raised concern over Zoom’s reliance on Chinese-developed apps and computer servers located in China.

Iotum has commercialized two other products on its platform: a podcast hosting product called TalkShoe, and, a free videoconference service that has over two million users globally. Callbridge is its enterprise business platform, one Martin says could easily be used by the Government of Canada.

“Parliament could use it for sure. We’d even give them a deal and charge them in Canadian dollars,” says Martin, adding, “It’s definitely an R&D success story for Canada.”


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