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Is Zoom Safe? — 15 Zoom Safety Tips For Kids, Teachers & Parents

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Learn about Zoom's safety risks and privacy concerns. Discover security tips that will keep you, your child or your students safe while using Zoom's video conferencing software. 

If you’ve been reading the news lately, you’d know Zoom’s video conferencing software isn’t as safe as we all previously thought. 

But did you know that locking your meetings and disabling your audio and video can help keep your information more secure and private? 

With the recent increase in remote learning, you’re probably wondering, “Is my child’s information safe?” or if you’re a teacher, “What can I do to beef up the security features for my class?”. At Knoji, we’re here to help. 

Today, we are diving into Zoom’s security issues and offering safety tips and tricks to help keep you, your child, or your students secure while video conferencing. 

Zoom’s privacy concerns — What you need to know

As of late, Zoom has found itself in hot water with reports of collecting and sending their users data to Facebook (even if that user doesn’t own a Facebook account). To add insult to injury, Zoom wasn’t upfront and clear about their actions in their privacy policy. Once these reports surfaced, unsurprisingly, public outcry began. 

To make matters worse, reports of Zoombombing and Zoom hacking emerged. Now, you’re probably wondering, “What is Zoombombing and Zoom hacking?”. We were curious too. Basically, unwanted participants enter into a Zoom meeting to disrupt it. “Disrupt” is a light term for what they are actually doing: spreading hate messages and sharing abusive and inappropriate content. Even a small disruption affects a virtual class. Simply put — this is unacceptable.   

How the public reacted 

Google has recently banned its employees from using Zoom for their video conferences, citing Zoom’s “security vulnerabilities” as the main reason. Moreover, New York City teachers ended their use of Zoom after the Department of Education indicated their safety and privacy concerns did not meet their standards. 

Zoom’s response — Proactive steps they are taking

After the backlash, Zoom immediately removed the code that was sending private information over to Facebook and apologized for their oversight. They also created a best practices manual to beef up security for school administrators who are using their platform, as well as created more training manuals and webinars

Further, they removed a feature, attendee attention tracking, which allowed hosts to see if their students’ were browsing other tabs for more than 30 seconds. In theory, this was a helpful notification for teachers. But in reality, it was crossing the privacy line. Additionally, they removed the meeting ID from showing up on the title bar in the meeting room. 

For K-12 educators and parents, Zoom set up a dedicated privacy policy specific to that group. According to their updated privacy policy, here is what Zoom claims they are collecting information on: 

zoom safety tips zoom privacy security

On top of that, Zoom also created an in-meeting security icon that easily allows hosts to access their security settings with one simple click. 

zoom safety tips zoom privacy security

Most importantly, Zoom reminds us of these certainties

zoom safety tips zoom privacy security

But with any online application, there will be security and privacy risks. Even with the best research, it’s hard to really know the truth behind Zoom’s privacy policy. Basically, use Zoom cautiously and do everything on your end to amp up your safety. 

Teachers & Administrators: 10 Zoom security tips to keep your students safe 

Safety Tip #1 — Lock your meetings 

Think of locking your meeting similar to a deadbolt lock on a door. Even if someone has a key (the meeting ID number and password) they still cannot get in. Once all of your students are in the virtual classroom, lock the meeting room to stop unexpected visitors. 

How to lock a Zoom meeting: 

At the bottom of the screen click, Participants > a panel on the right side of the screen will pop up, click the More button on the bottom right > click Lock Meeting.

zoom safety tips zoom privacy security

zoom safety tips zoom privacy security

Safety Tip #2 — Manage screen sharing 

As an instructor, you want to be the only one who can share a screen. Unless a student is giving a presentation, there’s really no need to enable screen sharing amongst the class. Thankfully, you can easily prevent access to screen sharing with Zoom’s security features. 

How to manage screen sharing:

At the bottom of the screen, click Security, under ‘Allow participants to’ uncheck Share Screen. 

zoom safety tips zoom privacy security

Safety Tip #3 — Enable the waiting room option 

This feature is similar to being a security guard at an exclusive event. As the host, you can let participants in one by one, or all together as a group. That way, you can see each and every person entering the meeting. 

How to enable the waiting room feature: 

Click Schedule to schedule the meeting > click Advanced Options at the screen > make sure Enable Waiting Room is on (it should be set up that way by default). 

zoom safety tips zoom privacy security

zoom safety tips zoom privacy security

Safety Tip #4 — Remove unwanted participants 

Kicking out an uninvited guest has never been so easy with Zoom’s Remove feature. If you forgot to lock the meeting room or someone accessed the meeting ID and password and entered, this function makes removing them quick and painless. Additionally, if a student is acting inappropriately, you have the option to remove them swiftly. Power never felt so gratifying. 

How to remove an unwanted guest:

Click Participants at the bottom of the screen > on the right panel, hover over the participant you want to kick out > click More > click Remove. 

zoom safety tips zoom privacy security

zoom safety tips zoom privacy security

Safety Tip #5 — Eliminate private chatting 

Students should only be paying attention to the lessons during a Zoom meeting, not chatting with others.  Disabling the private chat not only helps keep them focused, but it also levels up the security and privacy of the meeting room. 

How to disable Zoom’s private chat:

At the bottom of the screen, click Chat > in the panel on the right side, click the three dots on the bottom right corner > under Participants Can Chat With, click No One or Host only.

zoom safety tips zoom privacy security

You can also disable the entire chat feature, removing your ability to chat even as a host. 

Login to your Zoom web account > toggle off the buttons for Chat and Private chat 

Safety Tip #6 — Use the mute option 

Utilize the mute feature if you can’t quickly kick out an uninvited person. This tool allows for less distraction and minimizes disruptive noise from transpiring in class. 

Click Participants at the bottom of the screen > at the bottom of the right-side panel, you will find the option to Mute All. If you click More > you can click Mute Participants on Entry as well. 

zoom safety tips zoom privacy security

Safety Tip #7 — Create a random meeting ID and a strong password

Don’t use a personal meeting ID, as this is a recurring meeting. This leaves you more vulnerable to an unwanted guest finding your meeting ID and joining. Instead, create a random meeting ID. More important though, you need to create a strong password. We know you create strong passwords when it comes to your email address or your online bank account. Do the same here. 

Not sure how to create a solid password? Zoom’s got you covered. 

zoom safety tips zoom privacy security

Safety Tip #8 — Download the latest version of Zoom

Zoom is always evolving with new security features. In order to get those privacy features, make sure you download the latest version. A pop-up screen will come up alerting you when a new update needs downloading. It easily takes the guesswork out of it.

zoom safety tips zoom privacy security

Safety Tip #9 — Let students know if you are recording 

If you set up a camera in your classroom, you would tell your students you are recording them, right? The same still applies when conducting a virtual classroom. Let your students know if you hit the record button so they have full knowledge you are filming the lesson. If you are recording a presentation, make sure you don’t have the gallery display on (where you can see every participant). 

If you are a student and you see a red dot — alert alert!  That signifies a recording is taking place. 

Furthermore, we advise you to not post pictures of your video conferencing classes on any social media channel. Even though it can be exciting to share your hard work with others online, you need to remember that your students’ privacy is at stake. 

Safety Tip #10 — Allow students to rename themselves 

Keep your students’ information private (specifically their names) by enabling them to use an alias. If prepared, Sally Jones could just use her first name Sally, or even SJ, if she feels more comfortable. Just make sure Sally doesn’t get carried away and change her name to something that isn’t classroom appropriate. 

How to enable students to rename themselves:

Click Security on the bottom menu > Under ‘Allow participants to’ check off Rename themselves.  

zoom safety tips zoom privacy security

Students & Parents: 6 Zoom security tips to stay safe

Safety Tip #1 — Don’t share personal information 

You wouldn’t tell a stranger your address or your phone number. This doesn't change when you’re online. It’s best to assume any personal information you share online could get into the wrong hands. Therefore, it’s smarter to not share at all. Remember this rule and you’ll be better off: be careful what you say online. It always comes back to bite you. 

Safety Tip #2 — Obtain parental consent 

Make sure your child’s teacher or school has obtained parental consent prior to starting online classes with Zoom. It’s important to note, Zoom is not responsible for obtaining permission from parents. This responsibility lies within the educators. According to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, collecting photo/video/audio recordings online of children under the age of 13 can only occur with parental consent. 

Additionally, if you or your child is under 18 years old, then they will need to sign up for Zoom via their School Subscriber’s account. Per Zoom’s Terms of Service, minors shouldn’t create their own individual Zoom account for class meetings. If you have any questions regarding this, your school’s administration office would be the department to ask. 

Safety Tip #3 — Disable your microphone and video 

If it’s not necessary to have your microphone or video on, disable them. Your teacher may even mute you upon arrival. But if not, it’s best practice to disable those settings for your own safety and privacy. If a teacher calls on you and you need to quickly respond, you can easily unmute yourself. 

How to mute yourself:

Click Mute at the bottom right corner. 

zoom safety tips zoom privacy security

Safety Tip #4 — Don’t share the Zoom meeting information online 

Never never never and, we mean never,  put the zoom meeting information in a public forum. Sharing a zoom meeting’s password on social media or any public arena is akin to giving out extra copies of your house key to strangers. What’s the point of a password if you share it with people who shouldn’t know this information? If you need to share this information with another student, share it over a secure platform meant for only them. 

Safety Tip #5 — Be mindful of your surroundings

Being in a classroom IRL is very different from being in a classroom virtually. One of the most obvious differences: people can see inside your home. Now cleaning your room never felt more important, right? You don’t want your parent’s bank account information on full display on your video screen. Put away any confidential information lying around. And maybe while you’re at it, put away those dirty clothes on the floor too. (Your parents can thank us later). 

Now that you’ve moved your parent’s credit card offscreen, you also want to think about what people can hear online. Be mindful of other people in your house and if your classmates and teachers can hear them. This gives you one more reason to mute yourself. But if you can’t, be sure to find a quiet room or let your family members know you’re in a class and six-inch voices still apply. 

Safety Tip #6 — Report unsafe activity 

If you see something, say something. This is especially true with Zoom virtual meetings. If your child’s privacy is compromised, report the suspicious activity. You can file a vulnerability report or email Zoom’s security team directly. 

Consider these alternative video conferencing platforms:

After Zoom’s latest security snafu, Zoom might not be your first pick for a video conferencing platform. You’re in luck though — it’s not the only option. There are many other alternatives to zoom.  Those platforms have robust features to hold a virtual classroom and offer advanced security and privacy features. 

The obvious first choice to consider is Microsoft Teams video conferencing platform. Numerous high-level companies use it and many NYC schools switched over to this software after leaving Zoom. It’s customizable and carries robust features for educators, so it’s no surprise many would choose this option. One downside: if you aren’t already using Microsoft applications, it can be tricky to acclimate yourself quickly. But if you're already set up using Mircosoft platforms, Microsoft Teams is a crowd-favorite and a possible alternative. 

Webex is another video conferencing software that educators might consider. Users tend to prefer this service because of their video quality. When it comes to security, they claim their software is a "platform build for IT". 

A lesser-known video conferencing service, Wire, is another potential candidate. They are known for their end-to-end encryption and their security features

Takeaway 

There will always be some risk of using an online video conferencing platform. But with these simple and effective video conferencing security tips, you’ll be able to enhance your security to the max.  

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Sara Altschule
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