What Is Zoombombing and How Can It Be Prevented?
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so does social distancing. Everything—work, school, happy hour—is taking place online. One of the most popular ways to meet right now is in Zoom, a virtual meeting venue that has quickly become a household name. As one small example, active Zoom users were 151% higher in March 2020, compared to March 2019.
Like most things internet-related, when something becomes popular, the trolls come out to disrupt it. And Zoom is no exception. Perhaps you’ve already heard of—or even experienced—Zoomboming. The company has upped its security measures in response to Zoombombing. However, there are steps you can take to protect your Zoom meeting from being Zoom bombed in the first place.
What is Zoombombing?
Zoombombing or Zoom raiding is when someone disrupts your Zoom meeting. That disruption usually involves imagery like unwanted and graphic screenshots or creating offensive messages on screen using the annotation function.
How Prevalent is Zoombombing?
In some cases, Zoombombing started as a silly prank (like students disrupting a class in response to a teacher assigning too much homework). However, as more security flaws were discovered, Zoombombing pivoted into coordinated attacks that included disturbing images and racial taunts.
Zoombombers organized on Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, and 4Chan, for example, to share tips and exchange meeting passwords. While these platforms moved quickly to remove the problem accounts, they continue to pop up under new user names.
Zoombombing has become so problematic that the FBI is asking victims to report any incidents to the Internet Crime Complaint Center. And, due to the problems with Zoombombing and other privacy issues, New York City recently banned the use of Zoom for online learning during the coronavirus pandemic, urging teachers to use Microsoft Teams or Google products instead. The increase in Zoombombing has also caught the attention of the New York Attorney General’s office, which is now asking Zoom for information about its data privacy and security practices.
How to Prevent Zoombombing
Zoom added additional security layers for free and educational accounts on April 5, 2020. Specifically, all newly created meetings will now require passwords in addition to the meeting ID. And Zoom has also auto-enabled the meeting room function on all new meetings.
However, as a meeting host, there are additional security measures you can and should enable to stop Zoombombing before it starts.
- While you can continue to publicize your Zoom meetings (like a virtual dance party), remember that if you share the meeting ID, the meeting is, well, public. That means anyone can join. If you want to host a public event, consider asking interested invitees to contact you privately for the meeting password. This gives you a chance to vet potential meeting participants.
- Don’t use your Personal Meeting ID to host public events. Your personal ID is assigned to you and only you. It permanently reserves a “meeting room” for you so you can have an impromptu meeting at any time. Because it’s always on, though, anyone with your personal ID can crash any meeting you have whenever they want. Don’t share your personal meeting ID ever (like Boris Johnson did).
- Don’t allow participants to share their screens. Using the host controls at the bottom of the screen, select “Share Screen” then “Advanced Options.” Select “Only Host,” so that no one can share their screen.
- Make your guests sign in. You can force participants to sign in to Zoom. While it’s possible the guest could sign in with a fake name, the fact that they have to sign in may be enough to dissuade some Zoombombers from coming to your meeting.
- Lock the meeting. You can “lock the door” to your meeting so that once it’s started, no latecomers are allowed. As an added bonus, this will force legitimate participants to be prompt!
- Set up two-factor authentication. Instead of sharing the meeting link, generate a random meeting ID when you create the event. Then you can require a password for participants to join the meeting (now automatically enabled, but check your setting anyway).
- Disable file transfers. Sharing is great, but for Zoombombers, the file transfer in meeting option is a great way to disseminate graphic images and viruses. Don’t let participants do it. And, while you’re at it, disable the private chat function, too.
- Turn off annotations. Collaborating online is one of the only ways to complete group projects right now. However, as mentioned above, Zoom Bombers are using the annotation function to doodle on the screen and create havoc.
- Disable the “join before host” function. Most Zoom meetings allow people to enter the room before the host arrives. When that happens, if a Zoom Bomber gets there before you, there’s no way participants can stop the Zoom Bomber. Don’t let people in before you get there.
- The Waiting Room function is now automatically enabled. This forces participants to wait until you admit them. If someone is in your waiting room and you aren’t sure you should let them, you can remove them from the waiting room and not admit them to the meeting.
What to do If Your Are Zoombombed
Despite taking all of the necessary security precautions, there’s still a chance your meeting will be Zoombombed. If that happens, there are a few things you can do during the meeting to stop it.
- Kick the Zoombomber out. If someone is interrupting your meeting, hover over that person’s name, and a pop-up will appear, allowing you to remove that person. If you accidentally select the wrong person, don’t worry. You can allow them to rejoin.
- Put the Zoombomber on hold. As the meeting host, you can place the whole meeting on hold, and everyone’s video and audio connections will disable. Use that time to kick the Zoombomber out and restart the meeting when you’re ready.
- Disable audio and video. Meeting hosts can disable participant audio and video. It may be best to set this up before the meeting starts, but you can do it during the meeting if needed.
Keep Your Meetings Safe
Right now, virtual hangouts, meetings, and parties are the main source of social activity for many. It’s unfortunate that Zoombombers are exploiting that. However, if you take the time to make your meeting secure, you can stop Zoombombs before they start, and continue virtual meetings with coworkers and hanging out with friends online until you can do it in person.
For more tips and advice, sign up for our newsletter. You’ll get the best of our blog (and more) sent right to your inbox.
Button: Get on the List
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com
Don’t forget to share this article with friends!
Rachel Pelta is a Content Coordinator for FlexJobs. With professional experience in job placement and as a manager, she creates content to help people succeed in their job search, and to help managers get the best out of their staff.…Read More >
We’d love to hear your thoughts and questions. Please leave a comment below! All fields are required.