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Zoom safely: How to password-protect your meetings

It's very easy to set up a Zoom video conference, but, by default, it's also easy for hostile strangers to break into your meeting. Here's how to stop them.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

No one wants a naked man barging into a virtual classroom video conference, but that's what happened in Norway-based class using the WhereBy service. Here, in the US, the enormously popular Zoom video-conferencing service meetings are getting attacked so often there's even a phrase for it: Zoombombing

Indeed, it's gotten so bad that the FBI is warning people of Zoombombing dangers

While this kind of problem can show up on any kind of video-conferencing service -- I've seen reports of it on everything from Google Hangouts to Microsoft Teams to Skype -- Zoom users appear to be getting hit the most. 

There are several reasons some Zoom users are having so much trouble. 

First, by default, a Zoom meeting doesn't require a password. That means it is all too easy for new work-at-home meeting organizers to leave their friends' get-togethers, progress meetings, or virtual classrooms open to snoops or abusers. 

Yes, that's a lousy default. Hopefully, Zoom will fix it soon. 

That said, if you're managing Zoom for the first time, or any other new program, you must learn it's "gotchas" before they get you. That leads to the simple fact that we have hundreds of thousands of new video-conferencing organizers who've never set up an online meeting in their lives. A big reason why Zoom is so popular is it's so easy to use. 

But, and this is vital, it's not so easy to run it securely as a meeting organizer. Yes, I know you're a teacher, an office manager, or just a bloke who wants to see his buddies. But, thanks to the coronavirus and our new work-at-home offices everyone -- and I mean everyone, like it or not -- is now their home office security officer.

So, here's what you need to secure Zoom so you and your friends, students, or co-workers can meet safely.

Securing Zoom meetings with passwords

You can add Zoom passwords at the individual meeting level, or they can be enabled at the user, group, or account level for all meetings and webinars. Account owners and admins can also require passwords for all meetings and webinars on their account. I advise making passwords your default for all meetings. 

To do this for your account, take the following steps:

  1. Log into your account via the Zoom web portal.
  2. As the owner or admin, click on Account Management and then click Account Settings.
  3. Navigate to the Meeting tab and verify that the password settings that you would like to use for your account are set properly.

For your groups:

  1. Sign in to the Zoom web portal as the owner or admin and click on User Management then Group Management.
  2. Click the Group Name from the list and then click the Settings tab.
  3. Now, Navigate to the Meeting tab and verify that the password settings that you would like to use for this group are enabled.

If you want to require everyone in your group to use these password settings, click the lock icon, and then click Lock to confirm that you want everyone to use passwords.

For your meetings and webinars, once more:

  1. Sign in to the Zoom web portal
  2. Head to Settings
  3. Navigate to the Meeting tab and verify that the password settings that you would like to use for your meetings and webinars are enabled.

No matter whether you're setting up passwords for your account, groups, or specific meetings and seminars, you'll see essentially the same choices. For maximum safety, I suggest activating passwords for new meetings, instant meetings, personal meetings, aka PMI, and people joining by phone.

Zoom Password Settings

Zoom's password options. 

You can make it easier for people to use a password and join a meeting by choosing the option to embed the password within the meeting link. While that makes it much easier for people joining your meetings, it also means that you must make sure only the people you want get that link. Otherwise, anyone who grabs it can jump into your meeting. And, you're back once more into having unwelcome visitors in your conference.

For further details, check out Zoom's Meeting and Webinar Passwords page.

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Blocking users from grabbing control of the screen

To keep people, welcome or unwelcome, from screen sharing during a call, you need to block everyone except the host (you) from screen sharing. To do this, take the following steps:

  1. Sign in to the Zoom web portal
  2. Head to Settings in the left-hand menu
  3. Click To the Meeting tab
  4. Scroll down to "Screen sharing."
  5. Under "Who can share?", click "Host Only."
  6. Click on "Save"

Ta-da! No one will take over your meeting now.

These two steps should take care of the most common Zoom meeting interruptions. 

For more advanced meeting management tips, check out these handy Zoom help pages. If you run enough Zoom meetings, you'll probably use all of these.

By now, you're probably figured out that while joining and participating in a Zoom meeting is easy, managing them is much harder. You're right. It is. But, if working from home and running Zoom meetings, it looks like it's going to be a big part of your job going forward, and you need to master them. 

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