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COVID-19 Zoombombing

COVID-19: dodge the Zoom Bombers and get your webinars right

Many businesses have turned to web conferencing and webinars as they aspire to continue to operate as normally as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is a pragmatic approach. Web conferencing platforms not only allow businesses to continue to conduct meetings, events, presentations and trainings, they also provide a semblance of ‘face-to-face’ contact for workers who are otherwise operating in isolation and remotely.

But there are also some noteworthy risks.

The number of people using Zoom worldwide has surged since the onset of COVID-19, growing to an estimated 200 million daily users from a base of just 10 million in December.

Last week the Australian Cyber Security Centre released an alert warning businesses of some of the potential dangers of web conferencing.

These include the possibility of cyber criminals using weaknesses in conference software to access devices belonging to individuals or businesses, and the risk of uninvited people joining web conferences, meetings or events.

The outcome of that second risk can be as ‘minor’ as unwanted visitors making a nuisance of themselves or annoying invited guests, or they could be more serious, with interlopers gaining access to sensitive information.

We’ve already seen this situation play out in the US, where the FBI has issued a warning about the prevalence of ‘Zoom Bombing’.

There has also been the revelation that Zoom can’t actually facilitate end-to-end encryption for video meetings, despite the company seemingly suggesting that it did.

On a more light-hearted note, Australian comedian Hamish Blake has, with a bit of help from legitimate invitees, Zoom-bombed everything from university tutorials, to a primary school staff meeting and even an Australian Air Force flight log meeting.

None of this is to say that businesses should be putting a red line through Zoom. But it pays to know the strengths and weaknesses of different platforms.

Your options

Click Meeting is the platform we use for Cannings Purple webinars and we’ve found it very useful for that purpose. Click Meeting can be used to facilitate meetings but webinars are really its strong suit. Hosts can record meetings, set up sub-accounts and custom branding, and get detailed analytics and engagement data. There is no need for participants to download an app but they need to register to be allowed into webinars/meetings.

Zoom provides for up to 100 interactive video participants on free and pro plans (add-ons and enterprise options are available for larger audiences), integrates with Facebook Live and YouTube, allows for interactive polls and Q&As, and has closed captioning options for those who have hearing difficulties. But in addition to recent safety concerns, it’s more suited to meetings than webinars and prompts users to download an app.

Cisco Webex provides for both webinars and business conferencing and also has a chat interactive whiteboard that allows for brainstorming. It can send automated reminders to alert attendees when their session is due to start. While there are app options, it is not necessary to download one to join a Webex meeting.

GoToMeeting/GoToWebinar is suitable for both webinars and meetings. It incorporates custom landing pages, automated email notification reminders, has strong analytical tools and allows for polls.

Microsoft Teams can potentially be used for webinars but it really comes into its own for team meetings. Teams integrates fully with Office 365 and has cross-device capability.

Likewise, Google Hangouts perhaps isn’t best-suited for webinars because of bandwidth issues but is very useful for meetings, integrates with the Google suite of products and many of its features are available without having to pay.

Staying secure

From a security standpoint, here are some key starting points for anyone looking to organise a web conference or webinar.

  1. Have people register for a webinar, this gives you the opportunity to review the attendance list.
  2. Don’t make your webinar unrestricted and completely open to the public. Set a password for your webinar ‘room’.
  3. Use the waiting room feature and control the admission of guests.
  4. Do not share a link to a teleconference or room on an unrestricted publicly available social media post. Only provide the link directly to registered attendees.
  5. Manage screensharing options. In Zoom, change screensharing to “host only”.
  6. Set two-factor authentication, remove unwanted or disruptive participants, disable video for participants, and disable private chat.
  7. Have a moderator in place and change your settings so that questions and content need to be approved before they go live to the room
  8. Have a plan if things do go wrong. In the event an attendee hijacks a meeting, stick to your action plan. This could mean muting or removing them from the room, or in serious instances closing down the meeting and reconvening when the situation has been addressed.
  9. Lock the meeting once it has started, or a few minutes after it has started, to prevent unwanted people from joining after things get underway.

This might sound like a lot to think about but the good news is that most web conferencing platforms will be easy for your guests to use and the Cannings Purple Digital Team is available to provide you with the technical support you need to get up and running.

By choosing the right one for your needs and following some simple security steps, you can unlock a whole new world of face-to-face communications for your employees, clients, customers and other stakeholders.

Glenn Langridge is an expert in digital campaigning, the integration of digital tools and data analysis, including the use of analytics to inform and guide digital strategies. Contact Glenn.

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