How parents and families can use zoom safely
COVID19 restrictions have accelerated the use of online video meetings for most people, and this includes parents and families. We all find ourselves using video conferencing tools whether we like them or not, and one of the popular choices at the moment seems to be Zoom. Made popular perhaps by its simplicity and its pricing structure, including a free account that has a 40 minute allowance for video calls.
Zoom has had a few security issues recently, which the company has been trying to address at the software level. Although for parents and families using Zoom, most of the security concerns can be managed by getting our digital habits and hygiene right. We see the classic conflict between convenience and security playing out even with Zoom. For example, the ability to invite your meeting attendees and guests by using a simple link, which takes the hassle out of trying to join a online video meeting and lets guests join by just clicking a link has resulted in some of the security issues which have made the news recently, such as ZoomBombing – more on this in a minute.
So what habits and hygiene do parents and families need to follow to keep themselves and their children safe on Zoom?
Use the latest version of the software
This is a good habit to develop with all software and apps, not just Zoom. If you are using the desktop version of Zoom, which is installed on your computer or the mobile app on your smartphone, make sure that you are running the latest version of the software. It’s easy enough to check whether you are using the latest version by clicking on your initials on the right hand top corner and clicking Check for Updates (see below).
And on mobile phones, by clicking on Settings > About > Version. You can easily update the mobile app from your app store depending on the platform you use – Android, Apple or others.
Take necessary precautions, just as you would with a face to face meeting
Just as you would with any face to face meeting, ensure that you are taking necessary precautions to keep your meeting private and establish some basic protocols. For example, for a face to face meeting, you would make sure that door was shut, that you recognise all the attendees and that no one else who isn’t supposed to be part of your meeting, is in the room. These habits are equally valuable in the online world with video calls.
TechCrunch reported on 18th of March, and incidence of ZoomBombing, where trolls used the screen sharing feature in Zoom to broadcast pornography and awful videos from the internet, to all the attendees in the meeting.
Zoom has started to address this security vs convenience challenge by introducing a Security Toolbar (as of 9 April 2020) for meeting hosts, which gives you control over who can and cannot share their screen, lock your meeting, kick out disruptive meeting attendees, amongst other things. Make sure you familiarise yourselves with the Security Toolbar. Also, review the pre-meeting and in-meeting settings presented on the Zoom privacy webpage.
Make sure your activities and routines are not predictable
Another good habit that will improve your safety and security online. With respect to Zoom video calls, you can start to randomise your meeting IDs, so that it’s a different meeting ID each time. Zoom lets people join meetings by typing in meeting IDs and if your meeting ID remains consistent, you are making it easy for trolls and crooks. Convenience is handy for trolls and crooks because they already have a list of known IDs that they can try automatically in the hope of wandering in where they aren’t supposed to be.
You can use a randomly generated meeting ID to manage this risk. You should also set a password for your video call. This will add an extra layer of protection just in case your meeting link and ID get leaked to the wider world.
Be aware of your surroundings
Just as you wouldn’t walk in to a face to face meeting with your family photos, your personal documents, your affiliations, you shouldn’t do this with your online meetings either – make sure that your video calling space is free of any identifiable personal information.
Try not go get influenced by reward, fear or urgency
Be careful with links. If you are invited to an online meeting via a link, make sure you double check it’s origin before you click on it. Try to validate that it is indeed a genuine link using some other means (phone call for example). Most malicious links use the reward or fear triggers to get people to click on them. This is often referred to as Phishing. Learning to be cautious about random links and developing a sceptical approach to statements that emphasise reward, fear or urgency is a good habit to develop when using online services.