Penn State Advises How To Prevent ‘Zoom-Bombing’

As students and faculty continue to adjust to the new normal remote learning, they’ve encountered several challenges like how to use the new technology and how to maintain a sense of connection with each other. However, one that may’ve come as a bit of a surprise is “Zoom-bombing,” where strangers gain access to the a publicly available video conference and disrupt it by screen-sharing offensive pictures and yelling hateful language.

After many reports of classes and meetings being taken over due to this, Penn State has taken notice and is offering some advice for how to ensure your video conferences are free from these hijackers, who have thrived under the reason surge in Zoom usage. The university advised that hijacking teleconferences could potentially result in criminal charges and encouraged anyone witnessing an attack to report it to University Police. Already, several attackers around the world have been arrested after the FBI issued a warning about teleconferencing and online classroom hijacking during the coronavirus pandemic

The steps the university is encouraging meetings hosts to take in order to prevent attacks range from minimizing the threat of a hijacker getting into the meeting to do what to do if they gain access and start causing disruption. The measures include:

  • Add a password: All users will require a password to enter the meeting.
  • Schedule meetings: Allow Zoom to create automatically generated meeting IDs instead of using a personal meeting ID for large or public meetings. Keep the meeting ID and/or password private.
  • Join before host: Deselect so the meeting will not launch until the host enters the meeting.
  • Waiting roomSelect to require participants to enter a waiting room and admit individually or admit all.
  • Allow only authenticated users to join meetings: Select so only users with Penn State email addresses can join.
  • Lock the meetingWhen a meeting is locked, no new participants can join, even if they have the meeting ID and password. Select with careful consideration as participants cannot enter late or re-enter after being disconnected due to a technical issue.
  • Screen sharing: Select “Host Only” to prevent participants from sharing their screen. If screen sharing is enabled, the host also controls participants’ access to:
    • Annotation: Deselect to prevent participants from annotating on shared screens.
    • Whiteboard: Deselect to prevent participants from sharing their whiteboard.
    • Virtual background: Deselect to prevent users from replacing their background with an image 
  • Chat: Deselect so participants cannot send a message visible to all participants.
  • Mute all participants: Silence all microphones at once.
  • Put attendee on hold: This feature allows hosts to temporarily remove an attendee from a meeting. 

There’s also a pretty extensive article from Penn State’s IT Learning and Development and Teaching and Learning with Technology that goes into further detail about what you can do to protect your meetings and privacy.

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About the Author

Anthony Colucci

Anthony Colucci was once Onward State’s managing editor and preferred walk-on honors student who majored in psychology and public relations. Despite being from the make-believe land of Central Jersey, he was never a Rutgers fan. If you ever want to know how good Saquon Barkley's ball security is, ask Anthony what happened when he tried to force a fumble at the Mifflin Streak. If you want to hear the story or are bored and want to share prequel memes, follow @_anthonycolucci on Twitter or email him at [email protected]. All other requests and complaints should be directed to Onward State media contact emeritus Steve Connelly.

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