Zoom video conferencing

Zoombombing: How to stop strangers joining your Zoom video chat

Hugely popular video conferencing app Zoom has an annoying problem with a simple fix

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Built as a video conferencing tool for businesses to conduct remote meetings, Zoom has surged in popularity this month as millions of people are stuck in coronavirus isolation.

Free to use for 40 minutes at a time and capable of hosting up to 1,000 people in each virtual room, Zoom has quickly become the go-to way for friends and family (as well as colleagues) to stay in touch.

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But it hasn't taken long for internet trolls to take advantage of how, by default, anyone who knows the web address of a Zoom video conference can join in and share.

Known as Zoombombing, troublemakers have flooded video calls with pornography and shocking content, shown to all participants through Zoom's screen-sharing feature, which is switched on by default. This means any participant of a video call can show their screen to everyone else.

Thankfully, there are a few quick and easy ways to lock down your Zoom video chat and prevent this from happening, even if you have a free account.

First, here's how to prevent people in your Zoom meeting from sharing their screen with the participants:

How to prevent Zoombombing before you start a Zoom call

  1. Click on the Settings button on the left-hand side
  2. Scroll down to the 'Screen sharing' section
  3. Change 'Who can share?' to Host Only

Zoom screen-sharing settingsZoom screen-sharing settingsGearBrain

This now means that only the host — the person who set up the video call — can share their screen with others on the call. Even if a stranger knew the address of the call, they can no longer share any content with the participants.

Making the change once also means sharing will be host-only for all future Zoom calls you start, so you only need to jump into the settings menu once.

How to prevent Zoombombing after you have started a Zoom call

If you forgot to change the screen-share setting before you started the call, don't worry. You can make the change from the Zoom desktop app during a call. To do this, follow these instructions:

  1. Click on the upwards arrow to the right of the green Share Screen button at the foot of the screen.
  2. Click on Advanced Sharing Options
  3. Change the Who can share setting to Only Host

Zoom screen-sharing settingsZoom screen-sharing settingsGearBrain

How to prevent Zoombombing in the Zoom mobile app

Finally, if you are using Zoom on a smartphone or tablet, you can get to the all-important screen-sharing setting by following these instructions:

  1. Tap the More button in the lower-right corner
  2. Tap on Meeting Settings
  3. Scroll down to Allow Participants to Share and turn the option off. For Android users, this option is called Lock Share, and you'll want to switch it on.
There are several other ways to keep your Zoom meeting room private and safe. They are as follows:

Do not use a personal meeting ID (PMI)

Each Zoom user is assigned with a personal meeting ID, which means every meeting they host is available at the same web address. This can be convenient for those joining your meetings, as they always know what address to go to. But it also means that, if anyone else discovers your ID, they always have a way in.

Instead, generate a random meeting room ID, which is different for every meeting you host and expires after the video call ends.

Require a password

When creating a meeting room, you can generate a random ID and also create a password, which everyone will need to enter before they can access the video call. This should work well for a small group of friends and family, as you can send the unique link and password to them in a message, and so long as they don't make that information public, your room is safe.

Lock the meeting

An alternative to requiring passwords is to lock the meeting closed once everyone has joined. That way, no one else can turn up and spoil your catchup chat.

Use the waiting room feature

Zoom has a feature called Waiting Room, which is recommended for when you create a public video conference. Say you want to open a video chat for members of your industry; you can create the room, share the details publicly (on Twitter, for example), then ask everyone to head into the waiting room. From there, you can check who has joined and let them into the Zoom meeting only when you are ready to do so.

Once you have let each person in, you can also move them back to the waiting room by clicking on their name. That way, if someone turns up who shouldn't be there, you can either not let them in to start with, or remove them if they are granted access by mistake.

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