You’ve heard of photo-bombing—when someone leaps uninvited into a picture. Zoom-bombing is similar—when someone leaps uninvited into your conference call. Zoom-bombing is like digital graffiti video, and more than a public nuisance according to the FBI’s warning released last week. And although it may be convenient to blame the technology platform for not protecting our communications, these Zoom-bombers are not “hacking” the platform so much as walking through doors that Zoom users have left wide open. Similar to wearing facemasks to protect our health and slow the spread of COVID-19, we all play a role in keeping our communications safe from eavesdroppers.
With stay-at-home orders now issued across 41 states plus the District of Columbia, Zoom’s online video conferencing services have—you know it’s coming—zoomed from 10 million daily users in December to 200 million in March. Although the company has changed some default settings to promote confidentiality and “closed-door” conference calls, those scheduling calls and otherwise participating must do their part to prevent video sessions from being hijacked, proprietary company information from being stolen, and student privacy from being compromised. Zoom has issued a guide that includes tips like the following:
· Send invitations directly. Do not share meeting links publicly. (Seriously, search Facebook for <zoom.us> and you’ll find many.)
· Make your meetings private. Invite attendees into a waiting room—and do a roll call before allowing them in. (I just had a flashback of my daughter’s high school party that was crashed by underage drinkers—until the police I’d called showed up.)
· Protect your personal meeting ID. (Think of it as a password. It functions the same way.)
· Restrict video sharing. (Set to “host only.”)
· Maintain control of your screen. (Would you let just anyone drive your car?)
It’s not just Zoom meetings that are being challenged. Microsoft Teams recommends that those using its videoconferencing services keep things under control by identifying whitelisting participants through its settings for the lobby feature or by scheduling a structured meeting.
We’re in the middle of a big social and technology stress-testing experiment. I believe we can learn a lot from this and emerge with safer, more trustworthy options for creating flexible and productive work environments.
Shannon Bond (3 April 2020). “A must for millions, zoom has a dark side — and an FBI warning” on NPR.
David Z. Morris (2 April 2020). “Zoom meetings keep getting hacked. Here’s how to prevent ‘Zoom bombing’ on your video chats” in Fortune.