How to Lock Down Your Zoom Meeting Now That Trolls are 'Zoom Bombing'

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Liza P fended off Zoom bombers recently who were disrupting one of the Zoom meetings she co-hosts for a South Bay Alcoholics Anonymous chapter. (Courtesy of Liza P)

By now, you’ve heard of “Zoom bombing,” where trolls hijack an online video conference. Zoom has quickly become the most popular software for group meetings in recent weeks. Another word to add to the coronavirus pandemic lexicon: Zoom bouncer.

Meet Liza P: "clean and sober for seven years," as she puts it. We’re not sharing her last name or location because she’s a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Privacy is paramount in AA.

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Many local AA chapters pivoted online when shelter-in-place orders took hold a few weeks ago. P co-hosts two Zoom meetings, publicly listed, of course — which is how Zoom bombers get access. As a co-host, her role includes serving as a digital bouncer, "to make sure that nothing funny is going on in the background."

Already, she’s had to tackle a group of male zoom bombers spewing obscenities in a women-only meeting. It started with the ostensible husband of a woman attendee getting into an argument during the meeting.

"I think it was rehearsed," P said. "So I’m watching the photo gallery like a hawk and saying OK, where is the sound coming from. One by one deleting them." This was just the first in a series of steps Zoom recommends taking to regain control of a meeting from those seeking to disrupt it. "Then I went in and I locked the meeting down," she said.

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Within the Zoom settings a host can "lock" the meeting to prevent anyone else from joining, even if they have the ID and password. Zoom has recently publicized a suite of options to handle trolls, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit focused in privacy and civil liberties, has compiled a list of tips to safeguard privacy.

As Zoom states on their website, "You do not want random people in your public event taking control of the screen and sharing unwanted content with the group." Zoom suggests restricting this — before the meeting and during the meeting in the host control bar — so the host is the only one who can screen-share.

P has no problem using all the tools available to her in the software. She also takes advantage of a “waiting room” feature, that requires would-be participants to linger in digital purgatory until the host lets them in — or not. There's also a default setting to limit screen sharing to only the host.

P doesn't know if the same trolls will attempt to disrupt future meetings. "I don't know who they were, why they were doing it. I can only guess, and my guess is [they were doing it] to create theater, to create fear," she said.

P worries the newcomers in her women’s groups could be put off. "Just the fact of knowing that someone can do such a thing scares some women to begin with. It's one more barrier," she said.

She’s not intimidated though. P will be monitoring the digital doors in weeks to come — a Zoom bouncer on a mission to keep her AA groups open to the public.