How to protect yourself from Zoom-Bombing

Posted at 9:15 AM, Apr 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-05 11:15:20-04

The video conferencing app Zoom has become an important tool for people everywhere lately, as more people practice self-isolation and social distancing, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now something called "Zoom-Bombing" is disrupting people's meetings, including ones right here in Utah.

Zoom-Bombing is where someone takes control of a meeting and maybe even shares inappropriate content to those on the call.

This happened to a virtual town hall held on Zoom by Utah gubernatorial candidate Amiee Winder Newton on March 26th 2020.

Grovecrest Elementary School also experienced a similar situation on April 1st 2020.

Alpine School District Spokesperson Kimberly Bird told Fox 13 News over the phone that they would reveal the steps they are taking to prevent this from happening again, after spring break.

Users should know there are ways to protect Zoom meetings from those hoping to disrupt them.

Start by going to the settings section of your Zoom account on the website and click on the meetings tab.

This is where you can lock down the meetings that you host and make it so no one else gets in.

Farah Faraclas, a Manager on the Customer Success Team at Zoom Video Communications said, "As the host of the meeting, you have all of the controls at your fingertips to remove anyone from the meeting who may have joined accidentally at the wrong time or isn’t supposed to be there are all."

The first thing Zoom staff recommend is using the Waiting Room feature.

"The default that Zoom will apply will say 'all participants'. This will force every single person to hit the waiting room before the meeting commences," said Faraclas.

Anyone in the waiting room has to be approved by the host. You can also adjust the waiting room to be for guests only, meaning people who are signed in with their organization email can jump on the call and bypass the waiting room.

The next step is making sure you limit who can share their screen. The safest option is to make it so only the host can screen share.

Of course, there are times where organizations and classes need to be able to show something in order to explain it.

Faraclas said, "If somebody else starts sharing before they can share that content, you as the host will always have an emergency red ‘stop share’ button at the top of your screen as well."

The Director of Weber State University's Online education program, RC Callahan, said he and his team have gone through these steps, and others, to prevent someone from Zoom-Bombing them.

Callahan suggests muting all participants before the meeting starts, disabling screen sharing, and turning off the private chat feature, as well as being sensible about who you share your meeting IDs with and where you share them.

"Don’t post your links to your meetings on social media. We don’t want people jumping in that aren’t authorized to be there," said Callahan.

He also suggests not using your personal meeting ID when possible.

"These are like meetings that go on forever they just don’t stop so if you’re sharing out your personal meeting ID, people may jump in there after the meeting is done," said Callahan.

Another safe option is scheduling meetings ahead of time because they let you set a password that participants need in order to access the meeting.

Faraclas said, "You also have the option to use one of zoom’s single serve, random meeting ID, so that this meeting ID can’t be shared externally to your organization multiple times."

Callahan says you should also not share any personal information in these meetings.

"The information that you’re sharing, just think of it as it’s going to be out there. So, do you want this personal information to be shared among the general public? If not, you probably shouldn’t be saying it in an online web conference meeting," said Callahan.

Zoom wrote in a help article that as of April 4th 2020, they will automatically turn on the Waiting Room feature and require additional password settings for all Basic users on free accounts and accounts with a single licensed user, including K-12 education accounts who have the 40-minute limit temporarily waived.