Zoom Safety Tips

Zoom has again become the target for “bad guys.” As one of the most popular web conference tools in our region, it has become a magnet for improper behavior. When you look deeply at the tool, you will find that there is nothing “faulty” in Zoom, the tool. It has all of the same or similar security and control settings (visit our page on Zoom Security) as their most widely used competitors: Cisco WebEx and GoToMeeting. The difference is, the wide spread use and the rush to adopt a solution for virtual and hybrid learning models, may have prevented people from learning all of the features before using it. If you learn the settings and move your accounts to the “Pro” version, you will have more control and can easily prevent unexpected access or what is frequently being called “Zoom Bombing.” 

“Zoombombing” is Preventable.
“Zoombombing” is when an uninvited person joins a Zoom meeting. This is usually done in an attempt to gain a few cheap laughs at the expense of the participants. Zoombombers often hurl racial slurs or profanity, or share pornography and other offensive imagery. It is highly disruptive and can cause a lack of confidence when conducting virtual instruction.
Here’s the good news! Zoombombers are not sophisticated hackers or cybercriminals that employ state of the art technology to gain entrance into meetings. Most of the time, we make the job simple for them. Follow these steps to have a productive and safe online environment.
Follow These Simple Strategies to Secure Your Virtual Meetings with Students.
> Lock your virtual classroom (See How)
Did you know you can lock a Zoom session that’s already started, so that no one else can join? It’s kind of like closing the classroom door after the bell. Give students a few minutes to file in and then click Participants at the bottom of your Zoom window. In the Participants pop-up, click the button that says Lock Meeting.
> Control screen sharing (See How)
Sharing privileges are now set to “Host Only,” so teachers by default are the only ones who can share content in class. However, if students need to share their work with the group, you can allow screen sharing in the host controls.
> Enable the Waiting Room (See How)
The Waiting Room feature is one of the best ways to protect your Zoom virtual classroom and keep out those who aren’t supposed to be there. All Participants will send everyone to the virtual waiting area, where you can admit them individually or all at once.
> Lock down the chat (See How)
Teachers can restrict the in-class chat so students cannot privately message other students. We’d recommend controlling chat access in your in-meeting toolbar controls (rather than disabling it altogether) so students can still interact with the teacher as needed.
> Remove a participant (See How)
If someone who’s not meant to be there somehow manages to join your virtual classroom, you can easily remove them from the Participants menu. Hover over their name, and the Remove option (among other options) will appear. Click to remove them from your virtual classroom, and they won’t be allowed back in.
> Review Security options when scheduling a class* (See How)
Zoom provides other protection options at your fingertips when scheduling a class, before you ever have to change anything in front of your students. Here are a few of the most applicable:
  • Require registration: This shows you every email address of everyone who signed up to join your class and can help you evaluate who’s attending.
  • Use a random meeting ID: It’s best practice to generate a random meeting ID for your class, so it can’t be shared multiple times. This is the better alternative to using your Personal Meeting ID, which is not advised because it’s basically an ongoing meeting that’s always running.
  • Protect the classroom: Create a passcode and share with your students via school email so only those intended to join can access a virtual classroom.
  • Allow only authenticated users to join: Checking this box means only members of your school who are signed into their Zoom account can access this particular class.
  • Disable join before host: Students cannot join class before the teacher joins and will see a pop-up that says, “The meeting is waiting for the host to join.“
  • Manage annotation: Teachers should disable participant annotation in the screen sharing controls to prevent students from annotating on a shared screen and disrupting class.
> Access In-Meeting Controls
Teachers have a couple in-meeting options to control your virtual classroom:
  • Disable video: Turn off a student’s video to block distracting content or inappropriate gestures while class is in session.
  • Mute students: Mute/unmute individual students or all of them at once. Mute Upon Entry (in your settings) is also available to keep the clamor at bay when everyone files in.
*You may also want to contact your district Zoom administrator, usually the Director of Technology, to learn about the security settings in place for all users.

The Open Meeting Laws, which apply to Board of Ed Meetings, require school districts to publish meeting details so anyone can attend which is an issue regardless of which video conferencing tool you use.  By publishing the meeting access details on websites, emails and social media, the bad guys have gotten access to public meetings and in some cases are showing up in all of their glory. This can be remedied in several ways; Albany makes a temporary modification to the law that won’t prevent interested community members from attending meetings, or on a more practical note, be sure the settings in your meetings either use a waiting room and monitor access using waiting room features.  You can also live stream meetings and enable a chat or telephone system for participation. There are a variety of tools available to do this.

  • Don’t let anyone in that you don’t know or whose credentials you can’t validate.
  • Remove individuals for improper behavior in the same way you would in a Face to Face (F2F) Board meeting.
  • Ask a colleague to monitor both the waiting room access and the chat window so you can focus on running the meetings. 

Setting up protocols and process for the different types of video conference meetings, will ensure everyone has a positive experience. This is true regardless of any video conferencing tool.

Zoom licenses are now available for purchase through LHRIC. You will want to be covered by this contract and buying agreement through the LHRIC especially if you are currently using free accounts. If you do not have a current contract that is EdLaw2d compliant with any video conference tool, it should not be used with students.  If you do have a contract in place for 19/20 school year, be sure you have the proper controls in the admin dashboard and train your teachers.  A properly implemented tool, regardless of the type, with the appropriate governance and processes put in place will ensure a positive experience for users and participants.

Below are some links that should help you learn more about Zoom: