Teams across the world have been working from home and using video conferencing much more as a means of staying in touch.
Unfortunately, several reports claimed saboteurs – aka trolls – disrupted Zoom meetings and classes as part of a trend dubbed Zoom bombing. It was first reported in 2020, when Zoom was at its height and is now much less of a problem.
Here’s everything you need to know, including how to prevent your Zoom event from being crashed.
- What is Zoom and how does it work? Plus tips and tricks
- Best Zoom backgrounds: Fun virtual backgrounds for Zoom meetings
What is Zoom bombing?
Zoom is a videoconferencing app that many businesses and universities use to hold meetings or classes when in-person sessions aren’t possible. You can learn more about the software, which is available for desktops and mobile devices in both free and paid forms, from our guide here.
Anyway, people have been using Zoom’s screen-sharing feature to inundate other viewers with graphic videos, porn, and other NSFW content from across the internet. It became a trend after WFH Happy Hour – a public Zoom call hosted by reporter Casey Newton and investor Hunter Walk – was bombarded with crude imagery. A troll joined their call and screen-shared Two Girls, One Cup.
What’s worse, the perpetrator kept re-entering the call under a new name, forcing the hosts to end the call. The problem stemmed from this: anyone who publicly shared a Zoom meeting link, especially where it could be found by online trolls, like on Twitter, needed to change the screensharing option before the call started in order to protect their Zoom call from being disrupted or crashed by others.
Automated Zoom conference meeting finder ‘zWarDial’ discovers ~100 meetings per hour that aren’t protected by passwords. The tool also has prompted Zoom to investigate whether its password-by-default approach might be malfunctioning https://t.co/dXNq6KUYb3 pic.twitter.com/h0vB1Cp9Tb
— briankrebs (@briankrebs) April 2, 2020
The problem of Zoom bombing was also made worse after it was revealed that an automated tool could be used to scrape and discover over 2,400 unprotected Zoom meetings a day.
How to stop Zoom bombing
When you share a Zoom meeting link on social media or other public forums, it becomes public, and anyone can join with that link. However, Zoom hosts can disable the screen sharing option in their settings (or the Admin controls of a call), thus preventing participants from taking control of the meeting and subjecting everyone watching to inappropriate content.
Here’s how to shore up a Zoom call.
Generate a random meeting ID
First, avoid using your Personal Meeting ID to host public events. It’s basically one continuous meeting, so if you don’t want random people crashing your call, generate a random meeting ID. You can learn about meeting IDs here and how to generate a random one in the video above.
- Open your Zoom client and log in.
- Select the “Schedule” icon.
- Provide a name for your meeting.
- Provide a start date and time.
- Pro Accounts are required for sessions longer than 40 minutes with 3+ users.
- Once you have provided a start date and time, select which Meeting ID you want to use.
- Use the “generate automatically” option to provide a random ID number/location.
- You can also choose to use a password, to even further shore up your meeting.
- Under the Video options, select:
- Host: On (to allow the use of video by the host)
- Participants: Off (to block the use of video by the participants, if you wish)
- Finally, select the calendar option you want to use.
- This produces a meeting invite in this specific calendar.
- Click Save and your meeting will be all set.
Manage screen sharing
Never give up control of your screen. If you do not want random people in your public event taking control of the screen and sharing content, restrict their ability – either before the meeting or during the meeting in the host control bar.
- To prevent participants from screen sharing, use the host controls.
- Click the arrow next to Share Screen, and then Advanced Sharing Options.
- Under “Who can share?” choose “Host only” and close the window.
- You can also lock the Screen Share by default for all your meetings in your web settings.
Manage participants: More tips and tricks
Only allow signed-in users to join
Only allow signed-in users to join. From the Zoom web portal, navigate to Settings, and enable “Only authenticated users can join meetings”.
Lock the meeting
When you lock a Zoom meeting, no new participants can join, even if they have the meeting ID and password (if you have required one). In the meeting, click Participants at the bottom of your Zoom window. In the Participants pop-up, click the button that says Lock Meeting.
Require a password
You don’t always have to share a meeting link; you can generate a random Meeting ID when scheduling your event and require a password to join. Then, you can share that Meeting ID on social media, but then only send the password to join via a direct message.
Go here to learn more about how to set a password.
Remove disruptive participants
From that Participants menu, you can select a participant’s name and choose “Remove” to kick them out of the meeting.
Put people on hold or mute them
You can put all meeting participants on hold, temporarily disabling video and audio connections. Just click on someone’s video thumbnail and select Start Attendee On Hold to activate this feature. Click Take Off Hold in the Participants list when you want them to rejoin. Hosts can also mute/unmute individual participants or all of them at once. Try enabling Mute Upon Entry in your settings – learn how here.
Turn off someone’s video to block unwanted, distracting, or inappropriate video. Go here to learn how.
Try waiting room
For public events, Zoom recommends trying its Waiting Room feature to stop your guests from joining a meeting until you’re ready. As a host, you can customise Waiting Room settings for additional control, and you can even personalise the message people see when they wait.
Go here to learn about how waiting rooms work.
Zoom security updates
Zoom recognised that there was a problem and changed the default settings to address it. Now new meetings, instant meetings, and those you join with an ID are password protected by default. Even Zoom meetings that have been scheduled for a while will now have a password.
Joining a new meeting also puts you into a virtual waiting room first where the host will now need to let you in. The company says this will be the default setting for Free Basic and Single Pro users but all other users are encouraged to make use of these settings as well.
These changes prevent unwelcome visitors from disrupting your meetings.
Want to know more?
Check out Zoom’s Zoom bombing blog post for more tips and tricks.