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Zoombombing: what’s the deal with crashing calls?

By Shannon Flynn

Nov 28, 2021

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As society became more dependent on the video-sharing and collaborative meeting platform Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic, something detrimental was bound to happen. Businesses use Zoom and other similar platforms to host meetings remotely, and schools often use it to host classes when operating out of the building. Security and professionalism are crucial when using it for such purposes, but not everyone shares these sentiments.

Enter Zoombombing, which happens when an unwanted visitor drops in on your meeting, like your typical party crasher. While this occurrence may seem harmless at first, it can prove to be downright frightening and harmful, especially in the instances where the unwelcome visitor spews hatred to the detriment of everyone involved.

What happens during a Zoombombing?

Once someone gets into your Zoom meeting room—not necessarily through hacking, just through the loose security restrictions on the room—they may have complete control over what they can say or do in front of everyone else depending on the settings the host has chosen to enact. Once in your room, the Zoombomber may share something vulgar on their screen or shout obscenities and other foul language. To an inexperienced host, it can take quite a while to ban the user. Then, depending on the room settings, they may be able to reenter the room until the host changes it to ensure that people who are kicked can’t join the meeting again.

Why anyone would choose to do this kind of activity is anyone’s guess. Many people seem to think that Zoombombing happens because the perpetrators love to laugh at the shock value of it. By saying hateful things on camera or spreading harmful or disgusting images, they can reap some form of happiness from the repulsion everyone else displays.

Why did I get Zoombombed?

Your room may have gotten Zoombombed for several reasons. Rest assured that most of these Zoombombers are not professionals—they just know how to exploit unsecured rooms to worm their ways in and shock random people. It isn’t quite clear how certain rooms are targeted for Zoombombing, but it’s been a significant enough threat that the FBI is aware and has posted guidance for hosting meetings on the massive video-based platform.

Your room may have been found on social media or another public forum. If you share your rooms publicly for any reason, whether password-protected or completely private, people can easily find their way into your room. From there, they can wreak all sorts of havoc. Luckily, Zoom has taken measures to stop Zoombombing in its tracks. In addition to beefing up its security measures to help hosts understand who could threaten their meetings, Zoom agreed to pay $85 million to settle a lawsuit claiming it violated users’ privacy rights by sharing personal data with Facebook, Google and LinkedIn. It also had to give some of its subscribers a 15 per cent refund on their subscriptions.

How can I stop people from Zoombombing my meetings?

Unfortunately, there may be no way to completely stop Zoombombing from happening, as people will continue to find their way into unsecured private Zoom meeting rooms. The best way to safeguard your own Zoom meetings is to refrain from sharing your meeting link publicly. You can share it privately or directly with the people who need to access the meeting. Either option is better than posting it publicly, even if it’s on a company’s social media account.

If you want to take extra security measures to protect your meeting from unwanted visitors, try tinkering with these settings:

– Requiring a password: By choosing a password, no one will be able to access your room without the correct password.
– Automatically muting attendees: Since Zoombombers like to enter in a blaze of flames, automatically muting them can stop their plan in its tracks.
– Turn off screensharing: By ensuring that only the host can share their screen, you eliminate the option for Zoombombers to drop in with an offensive video.
– Open a waiting room: A waiting room ensures that all users have to wait for manual approval from the host to enter the room.

While these aren’t the only security settings you can implement to safeguard your meeting room, you should feel decently safe with all of them in play. Zoombombing usually happens to rooms that aren’t secured through Zoom’s settings, so the more settings you play with, the greater the chance that Zoombombers will leave your room alone.

Squashing the threat of Zoombombing

Since the pandemic, cyber-related crimes have risen 600 per cent. This occurrence may have resulted from more people spending time at home and being, well, bored. More people rely on technology than ever before, especially since not every workplace has gone back to normal just yet. Internet trolls may have started targeting Zoom as a result, but you don’t have to fall victim to Zoombombing. Keep your rooms as secure as possible and host the meeting or class your attendees deserve.