What was the last meme to trend before COVID-19? Honestly, if you’ve ever played Fallout, I sometimes feel like I’m living it. The life we knew a distant memory. Not trying to be dramatic, instead, I just think it’s so crazy that everything I write now has roots in the completely different world we all find ourselves in. One of those things is Zoom’s growth from a piece workplace video conferencing software to a social network of sorts. But, with Zoom’s explosive growth to comes growing pains, and one such growing pain is Zoom Bombing.
What is Zoom Bombing?
Zoom Bombing is a very simple problem. However, simple problems can have quite large impacts. The good news is you can easily avoid Zoom Bombing and happily continue using Zoom to connect with friends and family. More on that later.
If you’ve hosted or taken part in a Zoom video call, you’ll have joined the call using a link or a meeting ID number. These numbers consist of between 9 and 11 digits. If you join by a link, those ID numbers are in there, at the end of a link that starts with “https://us04web.zoom.us”. I just did a quick Twitter search for “https://us04web.zoom.us” and immediately found people promoting their Zoom meetups. One is for a cycling group of all ages, including the password required to join and the time of the meeting. So it would be nice and handy for anyone to join.
And that’s exactly what Zoom Bombing is. Gatecrashers do quick and simple searches for Zoom links and join the video calls. Sometimes, it’s classic internet trolling, but it can also branch out into sexual content, racism and sexist content
Welp. Today I paid for a @zoom_us account and hosted my first virtual version of #SEObeers and I'm sad to say that after an hour we got bombed with a bunch of penis, racists and sexist pics and messages.
Apologies to all who were there but i'm grateful for the time that was good pic.twitter.com/MgufZX4b9R
— Matt Lacuesta (@MattLacuesta) April 10, 2020
If you’re hosting a public Zoom meeting, you are responsible for taking the steps required to avoid this. Also, it’s in your interest because scammers don’t take long to find ways of using new trends to their advantage.
How To Avoid Zoom Bombing
Here’s how to avoid ZoomBombing, keeping your calls fun and safe, while also keeping us all connected in isolation.
Use Meeting Passwords And Don’t Share Them Publically
Using a secret password is the first step in protecting yourself and the meeting. Recently, Boris Johnson rather foolishly shared his Zoom meeting ID when tweeting about the first digital meeting of The UK Cabinet.
This morning I chaired the first ever digital Cabinet.
— Boris Johnson #StayHomeSaveLives (@BorisJohnson) March 31, 2020
The problem with this tweet was that the UK’s top powers were meeting in Zoom and they had publically shown their Zoom meeting ID. It’s in the top left corner of the browser. Zoom has released an update which some are referring to as “The Boris Johnson Update”.
Now, this wasn’t a massive deal because the session was password protected. Chances are even if the whole world tried to guess the password, and I’m sure they tried, no one would have gotten in.
That’s the power of a password.
When you host a Zoom meeting, set a password. This means your guests will not only need the meeting ID but a password too. If hosting a public meeting, don’t put the password in the same tweet as your meeting ID. You’ll need to have some sort of gating process. If you’re hosting a game of poker, WhatsApp the password to everyone. If you’re hosting online beers, maybe you could use a Google Form to get people to submit their emails addresses before you invite them.
A small bit of a barrier will go a long way towards keeping Zoom Bombers at bay.
Use The Waiting Room
The Waiting Room is like a bouncer. It’s the airlock. With the waiting room enabled you can add people one by one to the Zoom meeting. For example, you could request people use their real first name so you recognise them and not allow people in who don’t meet this requirement.
Never Ever Give Up Control Of Your Screen
Zoom has a functionality which allows other people in the meeting to control your computer. Just yesterday while working, I used this. It’s a very handy collaborative tool when you’re confident and sure you know everyone in the Zoom meeting. If you’re hosting a public Zoom meetup, you should never ever give up control of your screen. A Zoom Bombing gatecrasher or even worse a scammer might be waiting for the right moment to request access to your computer and have a look around to see what they can find on your laptop.
Practice A Zoom Call
Find someone you trust and arrange a Zoom call with them. Ask them to try and take control of your screen so you can see how to allow them, but also how to revoke their access later. Zoom is a brilliant platform with tons of functionality. Spend some time playing with everything it can do, but do so when you’re in a meeting with people you trust.
Disable “Join Before Host”
As I said, you’re responsible for ensuring people who enter the meeting are there for the right reasons. This is why you shouldn’t use “Join Before Host” as you don’t have control. If you know for a fact the meeting is locked down, it’s a handy feature but only use it when you’re sure no one else has details to join. Otherwise, you need to be there to police it.
Lock Your Meeting
Everyone in? Lock the doors. You can lock Zoom meetings and stop additional users from joining. Another simple step that can prevent Zoom Bombers from ruining the craic.
Disable Screen Sharing and File Sharing From Guests
Internet trolls love nothing more than sharing their screens full of porn, racism and sexism to name but a few of their favourite things to share. By preventing screen sharing and file sharing, you’ve removed their chance to broadcast this kind of content to your meeting.
To control this, click “Security: on the bottom of your screen. Disable the option allowing participants to share their screens.
You’ll find the options for this by clicking the arrow next to Share Screen and then Advanced Sharing Options. Under “Who can share?”, click on “Only Host” and then you’re done.
Only Allow Authenticated Users
You can also set your meeting up so that only users who have confirmed email addresses with Zoom access can join. Generally speaking, scammers and trolls avoid doing things like this but it’s not a fool-proof way to avoid Zoom Bombers either.
None of these methods are fool-proof. Some aren’t easy and others alone won’t protect you. You need to practice some commonsense with Zoom access. But if you take all of these things and put them into practice, then you won’t go too far wrong. And once that’s all done, the good news is you can have fun!
Have Fun On Zoom
One of the most incredible things to emerge from COVID-19 isolation is how we’re all staying connected. Through various video calling platforms and whatnot, I know I’m seeing some people more than ever. It’s brilliant to see technology when used correctly, bringing people together.
I’ve already shown you how to turn yourself into a potato on Zoom but Zoom is a lot more than that. It’s bringing people together and breaking down social distancing. Just do your best to avoid Zoom Bombers and we’ll all be just fine.