With a rise in the number of people using Zoom to stay connected, there have been increasing concerns about how secure the video chats are. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has responded to several reports of video calls being disrupted by uninvited users, or "Zoombombed." If you're concerned about the safety of your Zoom calls, here's how you can protect Zoom calls from Zoombombing, according to guidance from the FBI.
The novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, was declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Since then, the practice of social distancing means professionals and students are working and learning from home. In late March 2020, reports of Zoombombing began to emerge nationwide. It occurs when an unwanted user gains access to a Zoom meeting and disrupts it with lewd or profane language or images. In an emailed statement to Elite Daily, a Zoom spokesperson said, "We are deeply upset to hear about the incidents involving this type of attack and we strongly condemn such behavior."
On Monday, March 30, the FBI Boston Division’s area of responsibility (AOR) shared it had received numerous reports of calls being disrupted by outside users who are spamming videoconferences with hate images, offensive or threatening language, and pornography. The unsettling reports included two schools in Massachusetts, who reported unidentified individuals dialed into online classroom calls and yelled profane language and displayed hate symbols including swastika tattoos.
In addition to condemning the behavior, a Zoom spokesperson shared, "Zoom is aware of the FBI's recent press release and appreciates all efforts to raise awareness around how best to prevent these kinds of attacks. [As of] March 20, we have been actively educating users on how they can protect their meetings and help prevent incidents of harassment through features like waiting rooms, passwords, muting controls and limiting screen sharing."
The company is also working to educate new Zoom users. "We have also been offering trainings, tutorials, and webinars to help users understand their own account features and how to best use the platform. ... We encourage users to report any incidents of this kind directly to https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/requests/new so we can take appropriate action."
Both Zoom and the FBI have made efforts to inform users with the tools available to protect their calls from unwanted intruders. Here are some ways you can take control of your meetings and prevent intrusions.
1. Protect public events.
If you can't set your meeting to private, here are some tips to keep unwanted crashers out.
- Zoom says to avoid sharing your meeting link on any public platform, like social media. If you do, anyone can join your meeting.
- You can use a random meeting ID, instead of your Personal Meeting ID (PMI) when you need to host a public event. Sharing your PMI means users can access any of your meetings, as its a continuous thread. You can watch Zoom's video to see how to use random meeting IDs.
2. Avoid public meetings and make it private.
The FBI urges users to keep their meetings private when possible, especially in work meetings or classrooms. You can do this in Zoom in a few ways.
- Set a password. Do this by generating a random Meeting ID and then create a password others will use to get in. Then, share the Meeting ID with those you want to join, along with the password.
- Lock your Zoom meeting after it begins. This keeps anyone from joining the meeting after you've locked it, even if they have a password. To do this, click Participants at the bottom of the screen, then select the "Lock Meeting" button.
- Use the waiting room feature. This places your guests into a virtual waiting room and lets you control who gets in and who stays out.
3. Don't allow public screen sharing.
Someone who hijacks your Zoom meeting may be able to take control of your screen and share unwanted content with the group members this way. Avoid this by restricting the screen sharing feature using the host control bar and changing it to "Host Only," so you're the only one who can share your screen.
4. Kick out unwanted users quickly.
If someone unwanted appears in your Zoom meeting and you want to swiftly remove them, go to the participants menu at the bottom of the screen, find their screen name, and select the option that says "Remove." This will boot them out of the meeting and they will not be able to rejoin.
To find other tips to secure your Zoom meetings, check out the Zoom blog post.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all Elite Daily's coverage of coronavirus here.