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Zoom buys the identity service Keybase as part of 90-day security push

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Keybase serves as a secure home for online identities

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Zoom has acquired Keybase, an encryption and security service meant to serve as a secure home for your online identities. The acquisition is meant to quickly add a team of security-focused developers to Zoom, which has been widely criticized in recent weeks for lapses in security inside its increasingly popular videoconferencing software. Keybase co-founder Max Krohn will now lead Zoom’s security engineering team.

The Keybase team is supposed to help Zoom build end-to-end encryption for its videoconferences “that can reach current Zoom scalability.” Zoom has been working on building true end-to-end encryption for videoconferences since coming under criticism over the last month for making its calls incorrectly appear to be fully encrypted. The company plans to publish encryption designs on May 22nd, but there’s no specific timeline for when the feature will be finished.

“Keybase brings deep encryption and security expertise to Zoom,” Zoom CEO Eric S. Yuan said in a statement. Zoom announced a feature freeze last month to focus on security, and this addition “significantly advances our 90-day plan to enhance our security efforts.”

Keybase launched in 2014 as a directory for public encryption keys and has since grown to include secure messaging and file-sharing features. Keybase profiles are meant to serve as the center of your online identity: Keybase verifies you, and it verifies that you actually own other online accounts that belong to you. From there, people can visit your Keybase profile and feel confident that any account claimed is an authentic one. Usually, these profiles include encryption keys that can be used to securely contact a person.

It’s easy to imagine ways Keybase could be used to address Zoom’s recent security issues, but it’s less clear what will happen to Keybase in the meantime. Krohn is taking over Zoom’s security team — and the company hasn’t made any statement as to what this means for future development of Keybase products. In an email to The Verge, a Zoom spokesperson said “leaders from Zoom and Keybase will work together to determine the future of the Keybase product.”

Keybase’s tech will be built into Zoom somehow and included as part of Zoom’s paid offering, according to CNBC. The startup currently has 25 employees, according to the report.