Is it safe to use video conferencing app Zoom? Its popularity has soared over the past few months as millions of people moved to home working.  While Zoom included some features that could be used to safeguard meetings, these features could be hard to find, especially if you haven’t used the app before. Because of this, meetings have been interrupted by unwanted intruders with no other aim than to disrupt meetings and often in particularly nasty ways.

As a result, there has been quite a backlash against Zoom with most of it about user security. The company responded and has put extra security measures in place such as enabling virtual waiting rooms and account passwords for its free and low-cost versions. Below we outline these security measures in simple detail so you can become familiar with them.

Setting up a secure meeting in Zoom

Whether you're familiar with Zoom or not the following steps take you through the setup steps and the security features you need to enable to ensure your meeting is secure.
  • Sign into your Zoom account, either at zoom.us or through the desktop app if you have downloaded it.
  • Click on ‘Host a meeting’ on the web, or on ‘New meeting’ on the desktop app.
  • Select 'Call using Internet Audio'. Once in the call, make sure neither 'Mute' or 'Stop Video' is selected unless you want to disappear and be unheard.
  • Tap ‘Security’ to check your security measures. Make sure that ‘Enable Waiting Room’ is switched on so you can screen who enters.
  • To invite people, press 'Manage Participants' and 'Invite. You can choose to send an email, or to a Zoom contact. Alternatively, you can choose 'Copy URL' if you want to share the meeting in another way.
  • When your invitees click the link, they will arrive in the Waiting Room. Press ‘Manage Participants’ again to move them to the call. You can also switch on the “Play chime for Enter/Exit” in Settings so you know when someone is arriving in the meeting.
  • When everybody is in the call, you can select ‘Lock meeting’ to allow no more participants
Unique meeting ID and password

The following points dig into the security features a little deeper.

Zoom now automatically adds passwords to accounts, and these passwords can be embedded in the links to people’s personal rooms.
  • If you go to your Zoom profile and look for your ‘instant meeting’ link, you’ll see it contains both your personal meeting ID and, right after that, the password for the meeting.
  • Anyone you send that link to will be able to immediately gain access to your meeting without having to separately enter a password.
Zoom also allows the person setting up the call to share their meetings by sending a web address, or URL, which allows entry merely by clicking it.
This makes it easier to quickly invite people to meetings. But it does means that meetings can be entered without a password.
  • It’s important not to share the link widely, for instance by posting it on social media. As an alternative you could, for instance, share the meeting link via WhatsApp, given that these messages are encrypted.
  • Posting the link on social media is dangerous. Recently a school posted a meeting link for dance classes for children. Someone picked up the link, joined the meeting, and started showing child abuse images.
Virtual waiting room

The other enhanced security measure is a feature known as ‘waiting room’, a staging area where people must wait when they join the call.

Participants must be admitted by the host, meaning that if a stranger invades the call, they won’t get past the waiting room without permission from the host.
  • Zoom’s enhanced security measures now include the virtual waiting room being turned on by default.
When each participant clicks on their link, they will be asked to wait. The meeting organiser then receives a message saying that someone has entered the waiting room. The organiser can then immediately admit them or click on “See waiting room.”

If participants are put in the waiting room a sidebar appears which shows everyone who is waiting to enter the meeting.

The organiser then approves the participants and admits them into the meeting. Alternatively, 'attendees' can also be removed if they aren't expected and look sketchy.

The organiser can also send participants a message when they are in the waiting room, such as “Hold on everybody, we’re just waiting for John to join,” and so on.
  • You can also switch on the “Play chime for Enter/Exit” in Settings so you know when someone is arriving in the meeting.
  • When everybody is in the call, you can select "Lock meeting" to allow no more participants
If you do this even somebody who has the meeting ID and password can’t get in.

Other security features

If you’re hosting a meeting and somebody who is ‘sharing the screen’ misbehaves you can uncheck the ‘Share Screen’ selection which removes the function.

If at some point, a participant has a legitimate need to share their screen, you can re-enable sharing at any time.

If a participant does start to cause problems and you don’t want to kick them out you can put them back in the waiting room.

Just click on the ‘Manage Participants' icon at the bottom of the screen and find the name of the participant on the resulting side panel

Then simply click on:

 ‘More’ > ‘Put in waiting room’

The participant will no longer have access to the meeting and they will be in the waiting room until you let them return.

Business meetings protection

An important further level of security is to ensure that each device connecting to the Zoom meeting is protected with good antivirus protection. Malware infections can cause havoc and are often designed to infiltrate networks in order to steal as much sensitive information as possible, or in the case of ransomware to shut down entire networks and the devices on it. It’s always important to address these issues with good protection but the Covid-19 pandemic has added even further impetus as malware authors and email phishing scammers have launched a blitz of attacks related to the virus in the hope of catching the unwary out.

Small business owners can use BullGuard Small Office Security to protect their employees’ devices. The beauty of this platform is that it is centrally managed so protection can be downloaded onto all devices from a cloud-based dashboard. Similarly device management, such as applying updates and locking down lost or remote devices, is carried out via the dashboard. Reflecting the current difficulties many small businesses are experiencing in following good cyber security practice a free 3-month license for BullGuard Small Office Security is available. Up to 50 devices can be protected at no cost and there are no strings attached, for instance, you certainly don’t need to provide payment details. To find out more about BullGuard Small Office Security and to take advantage of this unique offer simply click here.

Remote working and home schooling

It also goes without saying that remote workers and home schoolers should be using a VPN (virtual private network) to connect to networks and access the internet. VPNs have a tranche of compelling security benefits and their popularity has soared during the pandemic. A VPN increases your security on public and private internet connections, keeps work and data safe as you move in and out of networks and delivers online anonymity, all of which keeps attackers at bay. BullGuard VPN is a market leading VPN and for a mere £2.70 a month it can be used on up to six devices simultaneously.