With the growing popularity of Zoom, there’s been an uproar over harassment, security and privacy issues.
As students at the University of Tennessee were participating in a virtual “Milkshake Monday,” an anonymous person jumped into the Zoom gathering and began berating everyone with racist rants.
“Zoom bombing has unfortunately become an issue at institutions across the country, and this is at least the second instance at UT Knoxville since we’ve moved online,” Chancellor Donde Plowman posted on the university’s website.
As the video conferencing platform Zoom has grown in popularity during the novel coronavirus pandemic, so have instances of “Zoom bombing.” Zoom bombing is when someone joins your meeting and disrupts it in some way.
The FBI recently issued a warning to the public about the “hijacking” of online classrooms and teleconferences after it received reports of conferences being disrupted by pornographic images, people shouting racist and threatening language, and the displaying of hate messages. Two schools in Massachusetts reported intruders signing into online classes.
There also are growing concerns about Zoom putting users’ privacy at risk. The Washington Post reported that security researchers who’ve analyzed Zoom’s code say its software relies on techniques that could leave people’s computers exposed. And its data-sharing arrangements and the ability of some users to record conversations without the consent of all involved could undermine people’s privacy as they carry out sensitive calls from home.
Many participants in Zoom calls may be surprised to find their faces, voices and personal information exposed online because a call host can record a large group call without participants’ knowledge or consent. Thousands of personal Zoom videos recently were left viewable on the open web.
And The New York Times reported that Zoom recently disabled a data-mining feature that allowed some participants to surreptitiously access LinkedIn profile data about other users — without Zoom asking for their permission during the meeting or even notifying them that someone else was snooping.
The New York attorney general has asked the company for details on how user data is shared and safeguarded.
If you don’t want to risk Zoom bombing, snooping or oversharing happening while chatting with your grandparents or co-workers, there are steps you can take to prevent it.
Create a unique ID
Instead of using the personal meeting ID Zoom assigns when you create an account, pcmag.com recommends you instead generate a unique code.
“Here’s why,” pcmag.com writes. “Once you put your PMI into the world, people can use it to try and jump in on your Zoom calls at any time.”
Also set a password for a meeting, then share that only with the right people.
Create a waiting room
By creating a waiting room, the host and/or co-hosts can control who joins a meeting. The “waiting room” option can be found under account settings. Once enabled, the host can either put everyone in the waiting room or “guest participants only,” which adds people on different Zoom accounts or who are not logged into the waiting room.
Disable screen sharing
The Verge also recommends the meeting host disable the screen sharing feature.
“If you schedule a meeting from the web interface, you won’t see the option to disable screen sharing,” the Verge writes. Instead:
• Click on “Settings” in the left-hand menu
• Scroll down to “Screen sharing” and under “Who can share?” click “Host Only”
• Click on “Save”
The Anti-Defamation League has created a handy meeting checklist if you’re using Zoom:
Before the meeting:
• Disable autosaving chats
• Disable file transfer
• Disable screen sharing for non-hosts
• Disable remote control
• Disable annotations
• Use per-meeting ID, not personal ID
• Disable “Join Before Host”
• Enable “Waiting Room”
During the meeting:
• Assign at least two co-hosts
• Mute all participants
• Lock the meeting, if all attendees are present
If you are Zoom bombed:
• Remove problematic users and disable their ability to rejoin when asked
• Lock the meeting to prevent additional Zoom bombing
ADL explains how to do each of the above actions on its site.
Information from The Washington Post and the New York Times was included in this report.