Longtime fans of music will likely remember the 1985 tune from Aretha Franklin called “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” Well, here in April 2020, that song is no doubt being sung by people all over the country who are using online meeting platforms like the one from Zoom Video Communications to conduct business virtually and keep in touch with loved ones, co-workers, and church members while  seeking to limit the pandemic spread of the novel coronavirus.

While online meeting solutions have been available and in use for years, many organizations are using them for the first time due to the work-from-home requirements now in place in most U.S. locations. Others who may have used them in the past simply for convenience or novelty are now using them out of necessity. Unfortunately, while we try our best to adapt our lifestyles to these homebound restrictions, the bad guys are once again seeking to capitalize on the confusion, inconvenience, and unfamiliarity with online meeting solutions that the work from home mandate has created. 

What is Zoom Bombing?

One way that attackers are wreaking havoc via online meeting solutions is by using a technique that has been dubbed “Zoom Bombing.” Similar to a photo bomb, where an uninvited passerby thrusts themselves into a picture behind unsuspecting photo subjects, a Zoom Bomb involves an uninvited guest listening in to an online meeting in one of the meeting platforms such as Zoom. The attacker’s motivations could be many things: eavesdropping on a private business meeting to obtain sensitive information that could be sold or used to harm the entity in some way, disrupting the meeting to prevent the accomplishment of the meeting objective, or interjecting unwanted information (such as disinformation) to the group. In some cases, Zoom Bombers are  using the screen sharing feature to display pornographic or disturbing images to the meeting participants.

Most online meeting portals allow the user to set up a meeting to be private, where only invited guests are able to log into the meeting room. However, unwitting users are compromising the privacy of the meetings by making their meeting information freely available.  Zoom bombers simply view the meeting information and use the details to log in just as an invited user would do.

How to Prevent Zoom Bombing

To reduce the likelihood that your next meeting will have unintended guests, follow these suggestions (these settings can be configured in your meeting room solution’s management portal):

  • Don’t post your private meeting room information where others can see it (such as on social media or in your e-mail signature). Adding your meeting room details to your e-mail signature line may seem like a smart convenience, but this approach could allow anyone who reads one of your e-mails to access your private meeting room at any time.
  • Don’t let your audience join before you open the room. Unselect the “join before host” option when setting up the meeting.
  • Configure the meeting room to play a sound as participants join and leave. While the tones can be annoying, it will allow you to quickly identify if someone joins your meeting partway through and does not announce themselves.
  • Don’t allow anonymous users to join your meeting room. All users should be required to sign in and identify themselves.
  • Configure meetings with a password. Using this option will help reduce the likelihood that someone with your generic meeting room details will be able to access a specific meeting, as they would not likely have the individual meeting password.
  • Unless you anticipate needing to allow users to share content during the meeting, disable file transfers and disable desktop/screen sharing for users. (This will not eliminate an online troll’s ability to display lewd content, but it does reduce the options for doing so.)
  • Use your meeting solution’s dashboard feature to track the attendees that connect to your meeting. This will help you ensure that only expected attendees are present in the meeting room.

Stay Safe While Working Remotely

As we seek to adapt to this full-time remote working arrangement while the coronavirus pandemic persists, we must all be especially vigilant. It’s an unfortunate fact that cyber attackers stand at the ready to take advantage of any circumstance that could help them achieve their objective, whether it’s obtaining sensitive data, accessing systems, or disrupting online meetings. And while we continue to maximize our use of online meeting platforms such as Zoom, we must take precautions to reduce our susceptibility to online trolls and attackers that may seek to sneak into our next web meeting. So, as you coordinate your next online meeting with your friends, loved ones, or colleagues, be sure to configure your meeting platform securely and clearly determine “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?”