Avoiding “ZoomBombing” – Protecting Yourself & Your Educational Institution While Telecommuting

Taking these steps will help you avoid being “ZoomBombed” and having to endure any more disruption during this highly unusual time.

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Taking these steps will help you avoid being “ZoomBombed” and having to endure any more disruption during this highly unusual time.

Let’s say your educational institution, as so many have during this time of unprecedented disruption caused by the global outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19), has decided to try using web meeting technologies to conduct classes and meetings.  You’ve prepared your material, shared the link to the meeting with your class and made sure your video camera, microphone and speakers are all working. You’re ready to go!

The session starts, and one by one people start to join the class and your class of 20 students now has 25 attendees. It’s an odd occurrence, but you decide to proceed.  Soon, however, you realize something is very wrong.  One of the students has set the video background to something of an inappropriate nature, while another starts using offensive language in the chat. Having spent some time with platform and having a solid understanding of how it works, you quickly remove that participant from the meeting, apologize to the class and move on.  However, the “student” enters again, using a different name, and continues the taunting behavior.  It leaves you no choice but to end the meeting.

You’ve Been “ZoomBombed.”

Though it is hard to trace the origin of the term—and this behavior isn’t limited to just the Zoom platform—countless stories of this practice have been popping up online over the last couple of weeks since the COVID-19 crisis intensified.  Several universities have had situations like the one described above unfold during their inaugural online sessions.  With a rush for many institutions to find a way to continue to deliver meaningful, interactive lessons to their classes, some simple safeguards have been missed along the way.

Whether the platform of choice be Zoom, GoToMeeting, Teams, WebEx or others, there are some best practices that should be followed:

  • Access—Allow only signed-in users to join. With many platforms you can restrict entry to meetings to only those with actual email accounts in your domain.
  • Mute participants—When delivering a one-to-many experience, muting the participants can serve two purposes. First, it prevents unwanted, distracting background noise, but it also limits the ability for individuals to offer inappropriate comments.
  • Turn off screen sharing—Presenters will, of course, need to share their screen if they are to communicate the day’s material, but there typically isn’t a need for a participant to share theirs. This limits the ability for individuals to display questionable material.
  • Disable private and group chat—You need to be able to communicate with your attendees, especially if they have legitimate questions or issues. However, by restricting their ability to use the public chat feature as well as the one-on-one chat feature, you limit their ability to be disruptive. Leave the “host only” chat option enabled so that you can manage and monitor any questions from the group.
  • Establish a co-host—A co-host is either a specific role or simply another presenter based on the platform. Regardless, a co-host focuses on managing the inflow of questions from the participants, selectively muting/unmuting individuals, admitting participants and turning on/off closed captioning.

While adopting any of these technologies can have a significant, positive impact on your educational institution’s ability to conduct remote learning programs, it is important to follow best practices to limit “bad apples” from ruining the experience.  Taking these steps will help you avoid being “ZoomBombed” and having to endure any more disruption during this highly unusual time.

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