Do You Zoom? Harvard’s Shorenstein Center Offers Safety Tips

Zoom Tips, illustration by Kotryna Zukauskaite

Chances are your commute to work has gotten much shorter. Being stuck in traffic has been replaced by walking to your desk to join your AM Zoom meeting.

Dealing with gridlock, inclement weather and uncomfortable office chairs are among the obstacles of daily work life which have been displaced by the massive switch to online work during the time of Covid-19. Zoom, a popular video conferencing software, has become the platform of choice for many organizations to hold their online meetings.

The software allows for up to hundreds of members to share a video of themselves or their screens, along with the audio. The creator of the call simply shares the link with whomever they wish to invite, and then they are free to join the meeting.

Zoom, however, does not come without its own obstacles. Many meetings have experienced a phenomenon known as ‘Zoom Bombing’. These calls are infiltrated by somebody who has obtained the link and launched attacks that range from annoying to extremely offensive. Zoomers have been unpleasantly subjected to obnoxious sound effects, explicit images, and even bigoted displays on their screens. There has been a massive increase in these Zoom bombings, as well as various other types of cyber-attacks, during the Covid-19 crisis.

The Shorenstein Center, a Harvard University research center on media, politics, and public policy held a webinar discussing this phenomenon on April 6. The seminar detailed how and why these Zoom bombers operate and shared suggestions on ways to combat their antics.

Because the link to join the call can be shared around uncontrollably, members often share the link with friends, as well as posting it on websites such as Reddit and 4chan, where an infinite number of people gain access to it. This is even more prevalent with online classes, as many Zoom bombers tend to be Gen Z students who find taking over these calls to be entertaining.

For those who plan to host Zoom calls, speakers at the seminar suggested a few strategies to prevent Zoom bombings:

  • Only allow hosts to have control over audio
  • Only allow hosts to share their screens
  • Only allow participants to message the host
  • Require members to register and log into Zoom with a recognizable username
  • Send out the link shortly before the meeting so there is less time for it to be shared around
  • Add a password to the meeting

To see the full slideshow prepared by the Shorenstein Center, click here.

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