Securing Your Zoom Classrooms
One of the most popular resources being used to educate during the COVID-19 pandemic is Zoom, a free mobile and desktop app for video and audio conferencing. Zoom offers an Education Plan allowing educators to utilize special features like unlimited meeting time and LMS integration. When the COVID-19 outbreak shut down schools internationally, Zoom saw a massive increase in membership, growing from 10 million users in December 2019 to 200 million as of March. Zoom became a household name for online education in a matter of weeks.
However, with Zoom’s newfound popularity came complications with security and privacy of meetings. Most recently, hackings called “Zoom-bombings” have become more commonplace, mainly interrupting educational meetings such as screen-sharing explicit images and videos, or insulting or hurling death threats at meeting participants. These Zoom-bombings are sometimes even organized or requested by students themselves on social media platforms like Reddit, Discord, and Twitter, allowing hackers to infiltrate a Zoom meeting.
In early April, the U.S. Department of Justice declared Zoom-bombing to be a federal crime. Zoom has since implemented a security update with new features to better control how meetings are conducted.
Here are some of the best ways to customize security for future educational lectures, discussions, or tutoring sessions:
1. Set a Password for Your Meeting
One of the easiest ways to secure your meeting is by setting a meeting password. Passwords can be customized or randomly generated, but for optimal protection, it is best to both randomly generate and change the password frequently. That being said, password entry is most useful for limited class sizes. For a tutoring center that needs all students to access sessions without using too many passwords simultaneously, this may pose an issue. To reduce confusion, password entry should be used only for group sessions with a different password per tutor.
2. Set Up a Waiting Room
As of March 31, Zoom’s Waiting Room feature was turned on by default for every meeting. The Waiting Room allows the host of a meeting to admit or deny entry to prospective participants using two options. The “All Participants” option sends everyone to the Waiting Room, where the host can admit entry individually or all at once; the “Guest Participants Only” allows only known, expected participants into the meeting and sends unknown, unaffiliated participants to the Waiting Room to be manually admitted or denied. Regardless of the option, the participants’ names and profile pictures are visible to the host when checking the Waiting Room. This feature can be enabled for meetings at the scheduling level in your web portal’s advanced account settings under “Account Management” or during a meeting through the Security feature. Learn how to access and customize the Waiting Room with this article from Zoom Support.
3. Have Participants Register
Zoom meetings with registration enabled require all participants to provide their email, name, and answers to a set of customizable questions to enter the meeting. Registration can even be used for in-progress meetings. Hosts are notified of new registrations through email, can view the participant’s information, and either automatically or manually grant admission. After the host’s approval, participants will receive the meeting link. This verification process allows educators to ensure students’ emails are truly administered by the school. This feature is only included in licensed accounts, but Zoom offers subscriptions for a Business License or Education Plan. Regarding the latter, Zoom is currently offering to waive the 40-minute time limit on meetings for K-12 institutions, but learning centers can request an Education Plan specifically for higher education. You can learn to enable registration through this tutorial from Zoom.
4. Controlling Participant Video, Audio, and Screen-Sharing
Participant video and audio can be disabled either individually by hovering over a participant’s icon or all together in Settings. By default, only the meeting host can screen-share. But, participant screen-sharing for one or multiple screens simultaneously can be activated by clicking the arrow next to the Share Screen icon. More participant management controls can be accessed here.
5. Randomize Meeting ID
Meeting IDs are no longer shown in the top bar of the meeting window. All meeting information, including the entry password, invitation URL, and the host’s name can be located by clicking the Information icon in the meeting window’s top-left corner or on the “Meetings” page of the Zoom web portal. Anyone with a Zoom account can choose to randomize their meeting ID by selecting “Generate Automatically” under “Meeting IDs” on the “Schedule” page of the user portal. Unlike personal meeting IDs, which stay the same for one year, randomized IDs will expire within 30 days from the meeting date. Within those 30 days, the randomized ID can be reused, but for optimal security, it is best to generate a new meeting ID every time.
6. Lock Your Meeting
Hosts can use the “Lock Meeting” feature to prevent new participants from joining an in-progress meeting. The participant list can pop out into a separate window, allowing the host to lock the meeting once all expected participants are accounted for. The “Lock Meeting” feature can be found at the bottom of the participant list in the “More” drop-down menu.
As the world lives day by day in quarantine, it’s nearly impossible to tell what problems will arise as remote education progresses. But with the right tools at hand, both independent and school-run learning centers will be able to adequately secure their classes and provide students the education they deserve.