Prevent Zoom Bombing

What is Zoom-Bombing?

Zoom-bombing is the term for when individuals "gate-crash" Zoom meetings. These uninvited guests share their screens to bombard real attendees with disturbing or distracting content. Most attacks exploit publicly available Zoom links and hackers have even created programs to scour the internet for meetings to disrupt. Depending on your personal settings, however, some ostensibly private meetings may also be vulnerable. Below are a few strategies that ensure your meetings are not disrupted.

Hosting Public Events on Zoom, Safely

If you share your meeting link on social media or another public location, anyone with the link can join your meeting. You may, however, occasionally require a meeting link (for office hours, for instance) that is open to a broader community of students than just one class. Here are some tips you can use to help when public meeting space is necessary:

  • Avoid using your Personal Meeting ID (PMI) to host public events. Your PMI is essentially one continuous meeting, and people can pop in and out all the time. Learn about meeting IDs and how to generate a random meeting ID. Full video tutorial

  • Familiarize yourself with Zoom’s settings and features. Understand how to protect your virtual space when you need to. For example, the Waiting Room is a helpful feature for hosts to control who comes and goes.

  • Mute audio and disable video for meeting attendees. Disabling video for everyone but the host will prevent any obscene content from being displayed on camera by attendees. This can be toggled off during the meeting creation.

Read on for a list of Zoom features that prevent unwanted interruptions.

Managing Screen Sharing

The simplest way to retain control of screen sharing in a Zoom meeting is never to give it up in the first place. To prevent random people in your public event from taking control of the screen, restrict sharing to yourself.

You can do this before or during the meeting by using the host controls at the bottom of the interface. Click the arrow next to “Share Screen”, and then select “Advanced Sharing Options.” Under “Who can share?” choose “ Host-Only” and close the window. You can also lock the Screen Share by default for all your meetings in your web settings.

Managing Participants

Below are some suggested methods that enable hosts to limit meeting attendance and control how attendees participate.

  • “Lock” the meeting: When you lock a Zoom Meeting that’s already started, no new participants can join, even with an approved meeting ID and password. During a meeting, click “Participants” at the bottom of your Zoom window. In the Participants pop-up, click the button that says “Lock Meeting.”

  • Set up a password: A password adds an additional layer of security, one that may be useful for meetings outside of regular class hours. You may wish to share the password in your syllabus or direct emails to your students or classmates.

  • Remove unwanted or disruptive participants: From the same “Participants” menu, hover your mouse over a participant’s name. Several options will appear, including “Remove.” Click that to kick someone out of the meeting.

  • Allow removed participants to rejoin: When you do remove someone, they can’t rejoin the meeting. But you can toggle your settings to allow removed participants to rejoin, in case you boot the wrong person.

  • Put attendees on hold: When a host places everyone else on hold, attendees’ video and audio connections are disabled momentarily. A host can also put individual participants on hold. To do so, click on someone’s video thumbnail and select “Start Attendee On Hold” to activate this feature. Click “Take Off Hold” in the Participants list when you’re ready to have them back.

  • Disable attendees’ video: Hosts can turn anyone’s video off. This allows them to block unwanted, distracting, or inappropriate gestures on video.

  • Mute participants: Hosts can mute/unmute individual participants or all of them at once to block unwanted, distracting, or inappropriate noise. You can also enable Mute Upon Entry in your settings to reduce confusion in large meetings.

  • Turn off file transfer: In-meeting file transfer allows participants to share files through the chat interface. Toggle this off to keep the chat from getting bombarded with unsolicited images, GIFs, or other files.

  • Turn off annotation or whiteboard: You and your attendees can annotate a screen share to mark up content. You can disable the annotation feature in your Zoom settings to prevent disruptive misuses of this feature.

  • Hide participants profile picture: You can hide profile pictures in meetings and only display their names. This prevents obscene profile pictures from causing distractions. 
  • Disable private chat: Zoom has in-meeting chat for everyone, but participants can also message each other directly. Restrict participants’ ability to chat privately while your event is going on to limit distractions that may reduce engagement by participants.

Adding a Waiting Room

One of the best ways to use Zoom for public events is to enable the Waiting Room feature. As its name suggests, the Waiting Room is a virtual staging area that prevents participants from joining until you’re ready for them. Meeting hosts can customize Waiting Room settings for additional control, including with a unique message to alert users that they’re in the right place or set guidelines for the meeting. To set up a waiting room, consult the following instructions:

  1. Sign in to your account in the Zoom Web Portal and access the “Settings” tab.

  2. Click on the “In Meeting (Advanced)” option.

  3. Search or scroll to find the “Waiting Room” option.

  4. Toggle the button next to “Waiting Room” to enable this feature.

  5. After enabling the Waiting Room feature, you can choose either to send all participants to the Waiting Room when they join or to send only external accounts there. You can also allow approved participants to admit guests from the Waiting Room if the host has not yet arrived to the meeting.