As we begin living our lives online, Internet security is more vital than ever. As businesses begin operating online, products like Zoom and other remote meeting services are in high demand. However, the increased user base has also led to worrying breaches in security. Unfortunately, these concerns include leaked account information, “zoombombing” incidents, and even the possibility of illegal recordings. While Zoom Video Communications works to fix these major issues with their service, there is still risk for users. Although you may not be able to avoid utilizing Zoom’s remote meeting service, you can do so as safely as possible. Just like wearing your mask and using hand sanitizer when going outside, you need to protect your computer from threats. Understanding the risks and how to avoid them will be necessary for the foreseeable future.
What are the Risks?
Understanding the risks is very important when protecting yourself online. A fair amount of the risks associated with Zoom are unavoidable, including zoombombings and information leaks. These issues need solutions from Zoom and are currently being patched out as they are discovered. As Zoom works to deal with the susceptibility to hackers, zoombombings should become a less pressing concern. However, the massive breach wherein 500,000 Zoom accounts were sold on the deep web still causes concern. An issue with hackers accessing webcams and microphones also presents a major possible issue in the Zoom application.
Another continuous concerning issue, zoombombings, can also be difficult to avoid, especially if you aren’t hosting the hacked meeting. According to its Wikipedia article, zoombombings are “the unwanted intrusion into a video conference call by an individual, causing disruption”. These shocking acts tend to occur in large meetings without password protection. There have even been instances of meeting attendees inviting hackers by leaking passwords and invitation links. The hackers generally force racist and/or pornographic images, sounds, or phrases on the meeting’s attendees. Unless the person hosting your meetings ensures your meeting’s security, this risk may be unavoidable.
These and many other issues relating to Zoom’s security, although concerning, can have their threat levels diminished. If taking proper precaution, you can keep your computer and yourself safe while utilizing Zoom’s services. Depending on whether you are hosting or attending a Zoom meeting will help you decide how to protect yourself. There are, however, some general steps you should follow to avoid security issues. With any account, using a strong, unique password and two-factor authentication to protect your account is a good practice. Another good practice when using Zoom is using a work or school email to sign in. Keeping your personal email safe is always important so using a more disposable email is best when using Zoom. Also, Zoom’s mobile and desktop apps have seen a number of issues, so using the browser client is recommended.
How to Keep Yourself Safe as a Participant
As an attendee of a Zoom meeting there are many steps you can follow to keep your meeting rooms safe. For starters, not sharing Zoom meeting links or passwords is a great practice to avoid zoombombing risks. Avoiding suspicious Zoom meeting links or links in a Zoom chat is also a good tip to keep in mind. If you are especially paranoid there are more extensive protection methods, such as running Zoom on a virtual machine. Virtual machines allow a user to run a separate operating system in a window on their computer. This window can then act as a virtual computer, thus keeping the files on your main computer secure. Applications to install and run a virtual machine exist for Mac, Windows, and Linux, the three main PC operating systems. Running programs on a virtual machine means your computer’s files cannot be accessed by hackers or datamining companies.
How to Keep Yourself Safe as a Host
When hosting Zoom meetings there are many steps you should take to keep your meeting secure. In updates to the service since the increase in usership, settings to improve security have been added and changed. Options like password protection on meetings have been set as the default. Now waiting rooms are also default for Zoom meetings, allowing hosts to approve who can participate. There are also settings related to screen sharing, a feature that zoombombers have utilized in their attacks. Importantly, limiting access to screen sharing capabilities strictly to the host helps to avoid abuse of the feature. In addition to this, Zoom meeting hosts can choose to mute all or select participants in a meeting. Should hackers attack your meeting, this ability helps in halting the disruption.
Although daily life has changed dramatically lately, companies like Zoom have done what they can to make the transition easier. Zoom Video Communications even released a guide for recommended meeting settings to keep you and your participants safe. The pdf covers settings the host should manage as well as additional safety tips and tricks. However, like any online based service, there is the risk of hackers and malfunctions. Although you can’t control how others respond to this crisis, you can protect yourself from people’s poor decisions. By making smart decisions and staying informed, you can protect yourself and those around you from online threats.