Zoom: Protect Yourself

Posted on May 20, 2020

by Javier Porras

I listen to NPR while driving and have heard them say, “This episode is brought to you by Zoom” I never gave it much thought and back then never imagined how it would impact my daily work. Now in this world that we are living in, it’s interesting how commonplace and normal online meetings seem now. The Business of Apps reported in an article titled, Zoom Revenue and Usage Statistics (2020)Zoom usage increased 67% between Jan and mid-March 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic.” 

For anyone still not really sure what Zoom is, it’s an online meeting platform that allows users to perform video conferencing as well as webinars. I like to think of it as Google Hangouts but for professional or business uses with a lot of features. It connects people; children to grandparents, long-distance friends, or even coworkers. With all it’s capabilities it’s easy to see how according to Business Of Apps,  Zoom is being “used by 90,000 schools in 20 countries during the Covid-19 outbreak to teach remotely.”

But as we become more creative in our ways to connect in online spaces, so do internet trolls conducting “Zoom-Bombings.” Upon first hearing about Zoom bombings, I was alarmed by the title thinking it was something that could cause damage to my computer, but I soon learned that according to ARS Technica, “Zoom-bombing, is the phenomenon of trolls intruding into other people’s meetings for the sole purpose of harassing attendees, usually by bombarding them with racist or sexually explicit images or statements.” 

But don’t be alarmed, Zoom can still be safe. We just have to ensure that we are operating it as safely as possible. Just as any tool in your toolbox has the potential of being dangerous if handled incorrectly, the same is true for Zoom. We’ve been using Zoom on a daily basis now since mid-March and we have some common practices you can use to be as safe and successful as possible.

ARS Technica mentions that “usual meetings among faculty members, boards of directors, and employees are protected by physical barriers such as walls and closed doors, Zoom conferences can only be secured using other means that many users are unversed in using.” So based on they’re insight we’ve devised the idea that the key to security is the acronym P.A.S.S.

Participants lists need to be frequently checked and monitored for unauthorized users.
Always password protect every meeting.
Social Media is a bad place to share the information about your meeting
Screen Sharing should always be turned off, unless…

Participants lists: 
ARS Technica, advises to, “Carefully inspect the list of participants periodically, whenever possible.”, and that “Any users who are unauthorized can be booted.”

Always password protect:
The best way to ensure meetings can be accessed only when someone has the password is to ensure that Require a password for instant meetings is turned on in the user settings.  

Social Media isn’t for sharing meeting information:
Social media is a great way to announce the program you are advertising. But, I would recommend that you use social media to curate a list of possible attendees and gain more information about who should be attending your event. ARS Technica recommends, instead of posting all of your sensitive information on social media, to “send messages only to the participants, using email or other messenger programs.”

Screen Sharing:
As you can imagine a Zoom-Bomber would take advantage of that ability to screen share. But this doesn’t mean that we have to sacrifice the ability to share ideas with this feature, we just have to ensure we are being safe. To do that ARS Technica says “People who rarely need sharing should turn it off altogether” and that “In the event participants require screen sharing,” it can be turned on, and that “only the host to share should be turned on.” 

If you remember P.A.S.S. to protect your meetings you’ll be safer. For added security, you should also consider: “Disabling the Join Before Host setting”, “Use the Waiting Room option to admit participants”, “Lock a meeting” and ”Be aware of everything that’s within view of your camera” as recommended by ARS Technica.

After all of this, it’s important for you, our community, to know that we at the La Porte County Public Library are taking every measure possible to ensure we provide the safest possible experience for you. We want to take this opportunity to also relay that during this period, we have expanded many of our resources to be available to you virtually. For tools and resources to access the library online, visit Library Online, and be sure to follow us on social media where we are posting the most current information.

Javier Porras

Javier Porras

Javier is a Community Engagement Librarian. He teaches library classes, plans programs, and helps customers learn new technologies. Outside of the library, you might find him knitting, playing the recorder, or sailing with his captain wife.
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