By now, the majority of Americans are hopefully staying home as much as possible to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus. As a global pandemic makes it’s way across the world, people are finding more and more ways to communicate with one another. People are staying connected via IM’s, FaceTime, Houseparty, tons of texts to friends and family and good, old-fashioned phone calls.

Since the the pandemic began, people are using an app called Zoom to connect with groups of people. Up until a few weeks ago, not many people had even heard of it, although it has been around since 2011.  Zoom’s mobile app now has over 32 million daily active users, 10 times more than there were a year ago. Zoom has seen a sharp rise in use over the past few weeks. According to nytimes.com, “On Sunday nearly 600,000 people downloaded the app, its biggest day ever, according to Apptopia, which tracks mobile apps.” The company is currently valued at $29 billion.

Zoom is free as long as you keep calls to under 40 minutes and fewer than 100 participants. Additional people, rooms and cloud recording costs more.

But- there is a BIG problem with the super popular app. More and more people are reporting incidents of “zoombombing,” which is a type of cyber attack. The nytimes.com describes zoombombing as  “Internet trolls jumping into public Zoom calls and using the platform’s screen-sharing feature to project graphic content to unwitting conference participants, forcing hosts to shut down their events and calls. While some incidents may have initially been regarded as pranks or trolling, they have since risen to the level of hate speech and harassment, and even commanded the attention of the F.B.I.”

The frequency and reach of the incidents on Zoom prompted the F.B.I. to issue a warning on Tuesday, , 4/31/2020, singling out the app and stating that it had “received multiple reports of conferences being disrupted by pornographic or hate images and threatening language” nationwide. So, what can you do to protect yourself when using Zoom and what is the company doing to help?

According to cnbc.com, there are ways to lower the chance of getting Zoombombed. The company has been encouraging people to use features like a waiting room, a meeting lock and a limit on screen sharing:

  • A waiting room is a virtual place where people gather before a Zoom meeting, allowing the host to vet each one of them before allowing them into the live meeting. Hosts can set up a waiting room by default for every meeting you with a control in Zoom’s web settings.
  • A meeting lock stops newcomers from joining once everyone you were expecting has arrived. To turn on that feature, click the “manage participants” button at the bottom of the Zoom application window, hit “more” in the participants pane near the bottom right corner of the window, and select “lock meeting.”
  • A meeting host can stop anyone else from taking control of what everyone sees and sharing a stream of what’s on their computer screen. You can enable that restriction from the Zoom web settings.

And very recently, Zoom changed a default setting for K-12 schools that accepted an offer to use free accounts without restrictions like a 40-minute meeting limit. For them, hosts are the only ones who can share screens by default, Zoom’s Pelosi said. Zoom is evaluating whether to change that default setting for other types of users, she said.(Source: cnbc. com)

Project B3 truly hopes that you are staying safe and healthy at home. Zoom is not necessarily an app to stay away from, it is just another form of communication that we need to use properly and appropriately, so we are not placing ourselves in a vulnerable position. We want you to remember to #BeSafe, #BeSmart and #BeKind when using technology from home at this time.