More people are turning toward teleconferencing to work from home, connect with friends, or conduct day-to-day meetings while self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic.
Unfortunately, so are racist trolls.
In the past few days, multiple people have reported uninvited trolls crashing Zoom teleconferencing calls and hijacking meetings with racist or graphic images.
People of color and universities, which have had to resort to online courses, have become frequent targets, prompting local investigations and the FBI to get involved.
In response, Zoom has offered users a series of tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of "Zoombombing." The Anti-Defamation League, which has seen white supremacists use the crashing tactic to push hateful messages, has also offered a checklist to safeguard users.
Here's a list of the best tips on how to avoid "Zoombombing" and how to keep control of your meetings once they're underway.
1. Never Tweet. Don't Facebook. Don't post it on Instagram. Not on school forums. Just. Don't.
If the link is visible to anyone but those you intended to invite to the meeting, then the meeting is no longer a private one.
"When you share your meeting link on social media or other public forums, that makes your event … extremely public," according to Zoom.
That includes not just posts on social media, but on electronic school bulletin boards that can be accessible to anyone.
2. Use a password, duh!
Log into your Zoom account (on the web, not the app) and simply click on the Settings option on the left-hand side menu.
That will open up the password options for all Zoom meetings, including scheduled, instant, and personal ID meetings.
When you create a new meeting, a random password will be assigned to the meeting.
You can use that, or make one up yourself. Of course, the rule of not making your password something obvious applies.
Make sure that when setting up new meetings, the password setting is on. You can also go back to your previously scheduled meetings and edit the settings to enable a password.
If you are inviting people to a meeting already in progress, the meeting ID and the randomized password will appear in the screen and be sent out in the email invite.
3. Set up a waiting room
This helps you, the host, control not just who joins the meeting, but when. With this feature you can allow people in one at a time (which is fine for smaller groups) or all at once after reviewing the list of people in there (probably better for larger groups).
You can also tinker with this feature to only put people who are not in your Zoom account — guests — in the waiting room, or just place everyone there automatically.
This too can be accessed under the Settings option, under the Meeting tab.
4. Control the screen
Taking control of the screen is one of the ways that "Zoombombers" have hijacked meetings in recent days, using the feature to display racist or pornographic images.
Disabling this feature might not prevent people from crashing your meeting, but it would take away a troll's ability, and incentive, to derail your online meetings. This is especially helpful if the troll might have been able to somehow get on your invite list or gotten their hands on your meeting password.
To do this during the meeting, click on the arrow (^) which is just to the right of the Share Screen on the bottom of the host control panel.
The window that appears will then give you the option to control who can share their screen in the meeting – change it to "Only Host."
5. Lock it down
After the meeting is underway, it is still a good idea to lock it all down to prevent uninvited guests from arriving.
You can do this pretty quickly at the beginning of a meeting. Simply click on Manage Participants in the bottom menu of the screen. The list of participants will show up on the screen and, on the bottom right hand side you will see the options to Mute (also a good idea), Unmute All, or More.
Click on More, and then the option to Lock Meeting will show up, blocking any new participants from joining.
6. Kick 'em out
Kicking out trolls is probably the simplest solution if someone managed to crash one of your meetings.
All you have to do is go back to the Participants menu (bottom of your screen during a meeting). Once you go toward their name, the option to Remove will show up.
However, victims of "Zoombombing" told BuzzFeed News they have often seen their meetings infiltrated by dozens of unwanted guests. Sometimes, including in classes where multiple people are expected to join, up to a 100 unidentified trolls have managed to sneak their way in, suggesting that Zoombombing has regrettably turned into a group activity.
If this happens, kicking out individual offenders will be pretty burdensome, so making sure that you have locked down your meeting with passwords and randomized meeting IDs is the best way to go.
7. Don't use your personal ID number
Your Personal ID number is like a never-ending meeting. Using this for any meeting is probably a bad idea, since trolls might use that to crash your meetings.
Instead, set up random meeting IDs.
This is done by clicking on your personal Settings and clicking on the Meeting tab.
Scroll down and disable the option to use your Personal Meeting ID when starting scheduled or instant meetings.
8. Get a co-host
During the meeting, you can hover over the video of the user you would like to make your co-host and click on the three dots that appear to the top right of their picture or video.
Once you click there, the option to Make Co-Host will appear, making them your ally to shut down any trolls or troublemakers.
To look at more tips on how to keep control of your Zoom meetings, look at the company's guide on how to keep uninvited guests out.
Now go forth, and stay safe.