Zooming Away From Security and Privacy

Update: 1/19/2021

Zoom and Teams offer a better experience and tighter security than when we first published this article, but Update: It’s critical to keep your software up-to-date so you can take advantage of the wealth of new features. Both companies offer updates at no additional charge. It’s not uncommon for a significant update to be released each week. Let us know if you need any help keeping Zoom and Teams up-to-date. We already do this for our flat-rate clients.

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent social distancing and shelter-at-home orders have brought video conferencing technology to the forefront of our lives.  The ability to connect with coworkers, friends, and family through an easy, inexpensive interface has been a welcome comfort in these troubling times. As its use has skyrocketed, videoconferencing provider Zoom has been drawing attention from journalists, security researchers, and even the general public, for numerous privacy and security issues. One of the challenges people notice in Zoom is “Zoombombing,” where uninvited attendees break into and disrupt your meeting.

It’s easy for folks with time on their hands and basic computer skills to Zoombomb a meeting- you don’t have to be a hacker. While there are no guarantees against determined cybercriminals, here are a few things you can do to improve your overall security levels when Zooming:

  1. Don’t use your Personal Meeting ID (the 10-digit number that you can send people) and instead use a per-meeting ID exclusive to that meeting.  Zoom’s support page has a video showing how to schedule a meeting.
  2. Use the “Waiting Room” feature of your meeting.  This will add an extra step to entering the meeting and require each user to be approved before entering the meeting. Go to Account Management > Account Settings. Click on Meeting, then click Waiting Room, to enable the setting. 
  3. Add a password to your meeting that is privately sent to all participants
  4. Once the meeting begins, lock the meeting to outsiders and assign at least two meeting co-hosts.  The co-hosts will be able to help control the situation in case anyone bypasses your efforts and barges into the meeting.
  5. Disable any tools that are not required for the meeting.  Mute all microphones if it will be a one-way discussion and disable file transfer if you will not be sharing files.
  6. Be aware of Zoom’s privacy policies. Could transcripts of your meetings be used to deliver specific advertisements to your attendees, and are you comfortable with this information in the hands of others? Assume Big Brother is a hidden attendee in all your Zoom meetings, even if you have a paid account.

Most of these features are found in the settings section of the Zoom application.  We suggest you take the time to review these settings and ponder what could a devious person could do in your meeting as you configure it.

Microsoft Teams has a more “business-y” feel, but with more security and privacy features baked-in, tight integration with Outlook, and the fact that it’s free to most Office 365 users, Teams is worth a try. Zoom is racing to make their platform more secure, while addressing privacy concerns and jugging their massive, pandemic-driven growth. Microsoft is adding more social features to make everyone feel more comfortable in Teams. We expect competition to make both platforms better. We want you to be healthy, secure, and connected, with privacy levels you understand. Contact us if you have any questions. As an essential business, we are open and ready to help you.