Zoom-Bombing: How Secure is Your Remote Meeting?

Posted by graham.westbrook
May 18, 2020

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Have you ever considered holding an important business meeting in the middle of a crowded park where anyone can join you and say whatever they want? Or sharing sensitive info about your clients with people you don’t really know? This is exactly what happens when you use video conferencing platforms without thinking about security.

The recent worldwide lockdown means that many aspects of our lives are now happening online. We meet, brainstorm, teach and learn using the Internet. But along with internet-connected meetings come new risks we need to identify and avoid.

Zoom and GoToMeeting – apps for online meetings

Up until March 2020, Zoom was just one of many remote-meeting apps; in December 2019 it saw an average of 10 million meeting participants daily. Over the course of March, the figure rose to 200 million meeting participants per day and in April it was 300 million, among them governments, schools and big companies. Zoom became one of the most recognizable and frequently used apps in the world. A huge rise in the number of users was also noted by GoToMeeting, another video conferencing software and Zoom’s direct competitor. This unprecedented level of online activity poses new risks, zoom-bombing being one of the most talked about. 

Below we look at them and show you how to use those programs safely.

Zoom-bombing and other risks around video conferencing apps

Zoom-bombing means crashing or interrupting a digital meeting by saying or showing things that are offensive, obscene or racist. It is usually conducted one by an anonymous intruder, who wants to cause chaos and disrupt a meeting in progress. 

Since the first incidents occurred, Zoom has implemented a series of security updates to make their service safer. Some zoom-bombers have been arrested and many companies and educational institutions have banned Zoom and switched to different platforms. But Zoom-bombing can happen during meetings at any other video conferencing platform and as long as we are using them without appropriate security measures, we are all likely to experience it. 

Zoom-bombing is just the tip of the iceberg of security issues associated with video conferencing. When hosting meetings online you can never be sure whether what you say is not being recorded by one of the participants or whether the information you share with your colleagues will not leak to the public. If you don’t verify who is taking part in the meeting, you cannot be sure who you are speaking to. And the topics discussed during video conferences are only as secure as the participants’ computers and Internet connections. 

How to keep your calls secure.

There are a few things you can do to increase safety of your calls. 

  1. Keep your video-conferencing apps updated. Companies like Zoom and GoToMeeting regularly update their applications and add new security measures. 
  2. Keep your meetings private. Always make sure you know who you are speaking to and who is participating in the call you are hosting. Also, make sure you know who is calling you before you accept a conversation. 
  3. Change the meeting ID and password every time you organize a call and don’t use your personal ID. Once you give out those details, they can be used to crash your meetings in the future. And there is nothing that could prevent people who know them from calling you at any time! If available, use invite-only option which allows you to send invites to participants prior to the meeting.
  4. Use waiting room feature. It puts all participants in a queue before you start the call. This way, if you don’t recognize a person who called in, you don’t let him into your meeting. 
  5. Mute audio and disable video for attendees, and make sure only the host can share the screen. This will enable the participants to share content that is not relevant to the meeting or that may be offensive. 
  6. Lock a meeting as soon as it starts. No one will be able to call in once the meeting is in progress.
  7. Disable file transfer and private chat options. Participants will not be able to share irrelevant comments or files during your meeting and you will eliminate the possibility of one participant harassing another. 
  8. If necessary, remember you can kick people out of the meeting, put them on hold or disable their camera.
  9. If you decide to record your presentations, remember to back them up. If saved only on the apps, they can get lost easily due to a technical error.

Not every person interrupting your meeting is a cyber-criminal and generally speaking people who participate in video conferences don’t wish to cause trouble. But random files can be shared accidentally, or someone may make a comment that should not be heard by others. And zoom-bombers are there as well, compromising the safety of your conversations. 

Video conferencing on such a scale is a relatively new phenomenon, as is zoom-bombing. 

We all need time to get trained and learn how to use it safely to make the most of those fantastic platforms that allows us to work and have fun together online!


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