Not a welcome prospect: disruptions caused by uninvited guests. Credit: Getty images
USA - As countless meetings have had to move from physical to online form in response to the coronavirus pandemic, it has exposed virtual events of all sizes to a malignant new phenomenon: Zoombombing.
Named after the popular video conferencing platform, Zoom, this refers to disruptions caused by uninvited guests who use the platform's screensharing technology to show graphic or offensive content and generally wreak havoc in the meeting.
Regardless of the meeting type, this kind of unwanted guest can create short-term embarrassment at best, and potentially long-term damage to an organisation's image.
While these virtual meeting hacking incidents are troublesome, they are also relatively easy to avoid if the right precautions are taken.
Avoiding Hackers and Zoombombers in Zoom Meeting
For those hosting large, public group meetings on Zoom, know that when you share the link on social media or post it publicly, anyone with the link is able to join.
For that reason, you should avoid using your Personal Meeting ID, which works as a single continuous meeting that you can share for instant, private meetings. If obtained by outsiders, it could allow them to crash your personal meetings long after the event in question.
Instead, create a unique Meeting ID by selecting "Schedule a Meeting" from the top menu bar. There you can schedule and enter the description of the meeting, review settings and generate an ID.
Manage your participants before the meeting
When scheduling a meeting, review your settings to be sure that participants are muted when they enter, that the waiting room is enabled (more on that shortly) and only authenticated users can join. If someone who hasn't been invited to the meeting tries to join, they will be alerted that "This meeting is for authorised attendees only."
Be sure "Require meeting password" is selected as well. If you want to go the extra mile and set up two-factor authentication, you can share the meeting ID publicly but share the password privately (through email or DM, for example).
To avoid having any Zoombombers take over your screen for any meetings, go to to Account Management > Account Settings > Screen Sharing. And under "Who can share?" select "Host Only."
You can also avoid unwanted content being transferred during the meeting, you can turn off file transfer by going to Account Management > Account Settings and locking the "File transfer" switch:
To avoid having users mark up or modify content that's being presented, follow the same process by going to Account Management > Account Settings and locking the "Annotation" switch.
Manage participants during the meeting
The key way to prevent trolls from hijacking a meeting is to ensure you maintain control of your screen. To do this, in the host controls during the call, click the arrow next to Share Screen and select "Advanced Sharing Options."
Below the "Who can share?" section, select "Host Only." (You do not need to do this if you've already made this change for all meetings in your Account Settings.
Once the event has started, you can lock the meeting so that no new participants can join - even those who have the meeting ID and password.
If those who are already in the meeting become disruptive, go to the "Manage Participants" button on the bottom of the Zoom window, and a list of participants will appear to the right. You can then click on any participant's name and choose to mute them, disable video or remove, kicking them out of the meeting altogether.
Enable the waiting room feature
The waiting room feature is a convenient way to manage guests during public events. It serves as a virtual "green room" where newly arrived guests can be held until you give permission for them to enter. These can be customised with additional controls and tailored messages so that those being held know they are in the right place, but most importantly it ensures that you will not have unexpected visitors appearing in your live event without being vetted.
You can enable this under Account Management > Account Settings > Waiting Room, choosing whether to place all participants or guest participants into the waiting room when they enter the Meeting ID.
While a password provides security for the virtual meeting, the waiting room gives you the added visibility of seeing who is trying to join.
Finally, if an issue does occur, you should be sure to report it to Zoom immediately so they can take appropriate action.
This is an abridged version of an article that first appeared in Northstar Meetings Group.