As early as the COVID-19 pandemic began, people found that they could use videoconferencing software to meet with their friends, families, and co-workers while remaining safe from infection. Zoom became the hottest app almost immediately, possibly because many of them were already using Zoom at work for videoconferencing.
Zoom was supposed to be primarily a business app, so there were some hiccups along the way. Even though Zoom included a few features to protect meetings, they were initially difficult to locate, especially if you had never used it before. Unwanted intruders began disrupting meetings by purposely causing them to fail (a practice that soon became known as “Zoombombing”).
There was a substantial backlash to this, with many users complaining about the lack of Security. Consequently, additional security measures were put in place. Virtual waiting rooms and passwords were made available automatically to accounts in its free and lowest-paid tiers, and people were encouraged to use unique meeting IDs rather than their permanent personal IDs.
While dealing with passwords and virtual waiting rooms might make for a less friendly interface, it also means someone you don’t know is less likely to show up at your family gathering.
Although other options exist, zoom remains a popular choice among video conferencing services. Here are some tips you can use to keep your Zoom meetings secure if you’re using the free version.
USE A UNIQUE MEETING ID AND PASSWORD
In Zoom, passwords are automatically added to accounts, and those passwords can be embedded in meeting links. In the case of scheduling a meeting, the link will display your meeting ID and, immediately afterward, the password for the meeting. Anybody you send that link to will be able to access your meeting right away without having to enter a password separately – and if they decide to post the link publicly, it nullifies any security that the password might have provided.
If you use the same ID for all your meetings, more people will know it, increasing the risk that a person unwelcome will enter.
Therefore, Zoom automatically generates a unique meeting ID when you schedule a meeting instead of using your meeting ID. Having a personal ID is unnecessary – even if you have regularly scheduled conferences with friends, you can send out an invitation (with a new meeting ID) each time.
If you haven’t yet created a meeting, this is the process that you will probably follow:
- The Zoom app lets you schedule an appointment by clicking on the “Schedule” button. To schedule a meeting, click “Schedule a meeting” on the top line of the web interface. A window entitled “Schedule Meeting” will appear in either case.
- You can specify the topic and description of the meeting if you wish. Indicate when, where, and for how long the meeting will take place. If you have more than two people in your meeting and are on the free plan, you are limited to 40 minutes per meeting.
- Ensure that “Generate Automatically” is checked under “Meeting ID.” Doing so will generate a different meeting ID than the one you usually use.
- If you want, you can change the passcode under Security.
- Immediately below that, you should enable “Waiting Room” so that anyone wishing to enter the meeting space can be approved. (We’ll discuss it more in a moment.)
- You can use “Advanced Options” if you want to let participants join without having to use the waiting room (not recommended), muffle them upon entry, automatically record meetings, or approve or block entries from specific geographical areas.
- After saving, click the “Save” button.
- It is most likely that you will bring you to a page with all the options for that meeting. In the middle of the page, you can click “Copy the invitation” to easily save it for sending to your participants.
- It’s as simple as that. Click the blue “Start this Meeting” button or use the meeting link generated whenever you are ready.
USE THE VIRTUAL WAITING ROOM
If someone wants to join a meeting, you can approve them by using a virtual waiting room, from where you can either admit them or not.
Participants will be asked to wait once they click on their link, while you will be notified at the top of your screen when someone enters the waiting room. It is your choice whether to admit or view them.
You can then either accept someone into the meeting, remove them from the waiting room (and from entering the meeting), or send them a message.
If you are expecting many people, it might be a hassle to approve everyone, but you’ll ensure that anyone who shows up to your meeting belongs there.
LOCKDOWN, DON’T SHARE, KICK THEM OUT
In addition to the built-in security features, Zoom offers additional security features.
When you know who should be in your meeting and they are all there, you can lock it down by clicking on the “Security” link at the bottom of the screen and choosing “Lock Meeting.” It means even someone with the meeting ID and password will not be able to enter the meeting.
If you’re holding a meeting with many people, it might be a good idea to uncheck the “Share Screen” option from the same menu. By chance, if someone intends to disrupt the meeting is allowed to share their screen, they can create a very uncomfortable situation for the rest of the attendees. You can re-enable sharing at any time if a participant has a legitimate need to share their screen at some point.
You can put a misbehaving participant back in the waiting room if you do not wish to kick them out (or if you want to tell them what you’re going to get them for their birthday). To put the participant in the waiting room, click “More” > “Put in a waiting room,” which will remove the participant from the meeting until you decide to let them back in again.
You can also remove somebody from the meeting using the same drop-down menu. If that becomes necessary, it might be a good idea to lock the meeting so I can’t get back into it.
As a host, you’ll be asked if you want to report any particular user if things get out of hand. Zoom recommends selecting “Suspend Participant Activities” from the Security menu to suspend participant activities. Zoom says everything during that time will be disabled, including video, audio, in-meeting chat, annotations, and screen sharing. Additionally, you will be able to provide screenshots and details about the problem. You will then be able to re-enable your various features and continue your meeting after the person is removed from the meeting (and reported to Zoom’s “Trust and Safety” team).