Accelerated by the move to learning and working 100% online last year, the reliance on virtual meetings has skyrocketed. Microsoft Teams and Zoom continue to support the essential work of students, faculty, and staff throughout Northeastern even as many return to the classroom and campuses. With virtual meetings, workshops, conferences, and classes come new challenges, including ‘Zoom bombing’ (or ‘Teams bombing’, depending on the tool you are using).
Fortunately, most ‘meeting bombing’ incidents are just annoying, and have been rare at Northeastern. But more widely, some incidents have involved traumatizing taunts, hate speech, and even threats. Regardless, each intrusion is a security breach, and should be taken seriously. As such, it is best to take steps to prevent such incidents and learn what to do if one occurs.
Microsoft Teams and Zoom both offer settings to help protect your meetings from uninvited participants and disruptive behavior.
- Protect your meeting information and do not share it widely, including over social media. When communicating about your meeting, explicitly ask others to help you in protecting the information by refraining from forwarding the meeting information or posting publicly, as well.
- Set expectations with your participants that they will refrain from displaying inappropriate content or sharing the link outside the participant group.
- Enlist a helper to monitor chat and user video so the organizer and presenters can focus on the meeting content.
- Enable a “waiting room” so the organizer can approve all participants.
- Allow the organizer control over participants’ cameras and microphones.
- For a public forum or conference, require attendees to register, and provide the link only to registered people.
Responding to meeting ‘bombing’
If you do experience an uninvited and unwelcome participant, your first priority is to get rid of the disruption. You could just end the meeting, and if you’re unable to identify the problem person, you may have to do so. Often, though, you can reassert control without having to take that drastic a step.
- Suspend participants’ activity, including video and audio
- Remove the disruptive participant
- If the disruptive participant cannot be identified, end the meeting. Create a new meeting following recommended preventative steps and share the new meeting with your intended participant list.
- If you’re able to remove the disruptive participant, return your participants’ audio and video capabilities
- Contact the Office of Information Security to disclose the event and connect with additional incident response and recovery resources for both you and your participants.
It’s important to recognize the impact of a Zoom bombing incident on your audience. Start by apologizing for the disruption and giving your participants a chance to raise any concerns they have about the incident. If time is a factor, invite them to communicate with you offline at a later time.
Be sensitive to the fact that some participants may have been significantly distressed, particularly if they are members of vulnerable groups targeted by hate speech. Be willing to listen and explain the steps you are taking to prevent a recurrence of the event.