In late March the New Mexico Public Regulation Committee (PRC) held a public meeting via video conference, joining millions of American businesses and organizations shifting to virtual workplaces. Midway through that meeting virtual hecklers interrupted it with loud laughter, yelling and racial slurs. Before long it had devolved into a level of audio pandemonium that forced the entire thing to be rescheduled. The PRC had been Zoom-bombed.
If you’re scratching your head at the term, you’re not alone. Let us explain. Zoom-bombing refers to hackers wreaking havoc in video conference calls hosted over public URLs. Zoom is one of the most popular video meeting platforms available and has been the target of much of the hijacking.
It’s not just the PRC being affected. Schools, businesses and even AA meetings have been disrupted across the country and around the globe. The practice has become so widespread the FBI has started cracking down on it, threatening hackers with jail time. The whole thing is making meeting leaders everywhere collectively shudder.
If you’re using Zoom or another platform like Skype, Google Hangouts or Go To Meeting to host virtual meetings, there are a few simple steps you can take to keep them from being interrupted by the more unscrupulous denizens of the internet.
Make it a private, password-protected event
Set your video conference to private instead of public and never (we repeat: NEVER) share a link to it on social media or other public platforms. Zoom is now requiring a password to enter a meeting, even on its basic free plans. Most platforms also allow you to set a password using a two-factor authentication process. This functionality is your friend right now. Even if you’re hosting a meeting that must be made available to the public, using two-factor authentication can help keep the trolls out.
Keep control of your screen
Zoom and other video conference platforms make it easy for anyone to share their screen with everyone on the call. Sounds great, right? Not always. Predictably, the internet trolls have used this functionality for nefarious purposes, sharing porn and racist imagery during calls. To prevent this, set the screen sharing feature so that only the meeting host can share a screen. If multiple people will need to share their screen during a meeting, set up the call so the meeting host has to approve anyone who wants to screen share.
Zoom allows you to set up a call so only signed-in users can join it. This means participants must use your email invitation to access the call. If you know everyone who will be on attending a meeting, this is a great way to keep it private.
Lock the door
Once the meeting has started and everyone is accounted for, lock your video conference room so no new callers can enter. Zoom has a useful feature called the waiting room. It allows you to corral new callers in a staging area until you’ve verified who they are and are ready to let them join.
Disable file share
Just as trolls are using the screen-share functionality to harass meeting attendees, they’re using the file share capability to bombard callers with inappropriate pictures, gifs and memes. Unless you need to use this capability, it’s best to turn it off ahead of your meeting.
Zoom has put together a helpful guide to keeping your meetings safe, with step-by-step instructions on how to turn functionality on and off. Now that virtual meetings are a necessity for so many of us, we hope this helps you keep yours as productive and troll-free as possible.