You may have seen the article ‘Dropping in Uninvited” in Thursday’s Chicago Tribune Business section, describing instances of ‘zoom-bombing’. Indeed, if you’re one of the many remote business leaders or managers using Zoom as your networking tool, you’ll want to know about this new form of hacking – and be prepared in case it happens to you in your Zoom sessions.
Zoom-bombing – think ‘photo-bombing’ and you’ll quickly understand the gist – happens when uninvited members drop into sessions hosted through the video conferencing app Zoom. Zoom’s popularity has soared since COVID-19 scattered workforces across the country into home-based work routines. The platform is being used for anything from regular work meetings to yoga classes, on-line classrooms, support groups, religious gatherings, even happy hours among friends. Users can leverage free versions of Zoom or pay for subscriptions when heavier/broader usage is required.
While Zoom meetings can contain security settings, invites to sessions are often posted on websites or social media feeds to boost attendance and awareness, and this also makes them more vulnerable to hackers. Indeed, often a simple ‘Google’ search for URLs that have the extension ‘zoom.us’ can reveal meeting links. Exacerbating matters is that many of us are relatively new to Zoom and aren’t familiar with the platform’s various features, and we relative newbies don’t know how to react when a hacker interferes.
Thus far, most instances of zoom-bombing have consisted of mischief-type pranks – hackers dropping in to swear or reveal pornographic images to disrupt meetings, for example. But recent incidents have also included spreading hate or intimidating and threatening participants. In recent days, Zoom-bombers have disrupted an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, Sunday School, and on-line University classes.
Zoom is revisiting some of its features to countervail the prevalence of zoom-bombing. In the meantime, there are simple tips we can use to keep control of our Zoom sessions:
How to Protect Yourself from Zoom-Bombing
- Require passwords for meetings.
- Use ‘waiting room’ feature to monitor and subsequently control attendees.
- Remove participants when needed by hovering over their name, then clicking ‘remove’.
- Send invitations – with passwords — directly to participants via emails rather than posting them on websites or social media.
- If possible, change screensharing settings to ‘only host’. The downside is that when participants talk under normal circumstances, their image fills the screen, which makes it clear immediately who is speaking; this feature will be lost under ‘only host’ settings.
- Consider the ‘lock meeting’ feature once the session has begun and all attendees have arrived; this can be found under the ‘participants’ menu.
Please take care of yourselves and each other during this uncertain time! NAMI CCNS has moved much of its programming – support groups for mental health concerns – online, and our programming is and always has been free for participants. Let us help at namiccns.org!