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Video Collaboration Gate Crashing (Zoom-bombing)

Although I have not personally experienced gate crashing of my online classes or meetings, colleagues of mine have, and there continues to be increasing reports of this happening with institutions, organizations, and educators.  This development is especially concerning given the current COVID-19 crisis and so many educators moving online to facilitate their lessons.

What Is It?

Video Collaboration Gate Crashing, also known as Zoom-bombing, is an interruption of a synchronous online session or meeting in a malicious manner.  This is made possible when a session link is shared with participants and then becomes available to individuals other than those attended participants.  Some hacker websites have begun to publish these links, and some individuals or groups are taking the opportunity to cause disruptions to the online classes.

What Are Some Examples?

Some examples of the reported Gate Crashing includes:

Chat messages

• Racist vitriol being posted as text or images

• Sexually inappropriate messages being posted as text or images

• Links to pornographic websites

Screen sharing

• Images or videos shared containing pornographic, racist, or offensive content

Video interruptions

• Virtual backdrops behind “participants” that contain pornographic or offensive images

• Racist vitriol

• Additionally, “denial of service” attacks have been reported.  This is a process where an individual or group overwhelms the video session to the point that the meeting or class cannot take place.

These attacks can be prevented with some careful platform settings.

Prevention

Utilize Blackboard Collaborate Ultra or another video collaboration tool that is embedded into your Learning Management System (LMS). Host your online class or virtual meeting from within a course rather than a shared link.  This will ensure only registered participants with an LMS password can join the session.

Consider avoiding the use of a Personal Meeting ID (PMI) or permanent virtual meeting with an open hyperlink.  Instead, schedule a meeting or class and create a new session each time.

Alternatively, consider using a password for guests to enter the session. Email this password separately from the hyperlink.

Become familiar with the settings of the platform you are using and disable any options that allow others to become a distraction.  Standard settings to ensure include:

• Do not allow guests to join before a moderator.

• Do not allow participants to share their screen automatically.

• Do not permit guests to post in the chat unless it is a closed session or a co-moderator can assist.

• Do not allow virtual backdrops for guest video sharing.

If you are new to video collaboration, consider utilizing a co-host who can help monitor the discussions in the chatbox. This can be a colleague, student leader, etc.

More information on this can be found at:

Zoom specific resources: https://blog.zoom.us/wordpress/2020/03/20/keep-the-party-crashers-from-crashing-your-zoom-event/

BlueJeans specific resources: https://support.bluejeans.com/s/article/Meeting-Controls-for-Participants-and-Moderators

Thank you for taking some time out of your day. What are your thoughts on this video collaboration gate crashing? Has it happened to you? Please comment below.

Enjoy the rest of your day!

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay used under open license.

References / Additional Reading

Constine, J. (2020). Beware of ‘ZoomBombing:’ screensharing filth to video calls. TechCrunch. https://techcrunch.com/2020/03/17/zoombombing/

Hern, A. (2020, March 27). Trolls exploit Zoom privacy settings as app gains popularity. The Guardian, International Edition. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/mar/27/trolls-zoom-privacy-settings-covid-19-lockdown

Kingsley-Hughes, A. (2020). How to prevent your Zoom meetings being Zoom-bombed (gate-crashed) by trolls. ZDNet. https://www.zdnet.com/article/how-to-prevent-your-zoom-meetings-being-zoom-bombed-gate-crashed-by-trolls/

O’Flaherty, K. (2020, March). Beware Zoom Users: Here’s How People Can ‘Zoom-Bomb’ Your Chat. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kateoflahertyuk/2020/03/27/beware-zoom-users-heres-how-people-can-zoom-bomb-your-chat/#b875094618e2

Zoombombing Resources. (2020). Keep Teaching, University of Southern California. https://keepteaching.usc.edu/tools/zoombombing-resources/

Zoom. (2020). How to Keep the Party Crashers from Crashing Your Zoom Event. Zoom Blog. https://blog.zoom.us/wordpress/2020/03/20/keep-the-party-crashers-from-crashing-your-zoom-event

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