Preventing ‘Zoom bombing’ requires increased security efforts

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Video conferencing platform Zoom’s lax security measures necessitate stricter privacy policies

Illustration of Zoom bombing
Emily Bi/Senior Staff

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Ever since the COVID-19, colloquially known as the coronavirus, pandemic has prompted schools to implement virtual education, students are attending classes through Zoom video conferencing. Learning from home may seem like a dream, as the ability to simply click a link that transports you to class without ever leaving bed has simplified life for many.

But when people hijack Zoom meetings and disrupt valuable class time, the learning gets abruptly cut short. While the campus recently instituted policies to punish this “Zoom bombing,” the onus falls on Zoom to implement stricter privacy measures. In addition, the campus community is also responsible for cooperating with these adjustments and taking initiative to ensure digital safety.

Zoom’s executives seem to have prioritized an easy and free to use interface over something that protects its users’ privacy. Earlier this month, Zoom became embroiled with a class-action lawsuit that alleged Zoom was sharing users’ personal data with Facebook. More recently, Zoom has even been sued by its own shareholder for allegedly overstating security measures. Although specific security settings allow hosts to have password-protected meetings, these precautions can be circumvented. In fact, a password-protected Berkeley High School class proved how easy it was to obtain credentials, which pushed school administrators to temporarily stop using Zoom.

As the lawsuits against Zoom continue to pile up, it has become clear that schools should seek alternative platforms on which to host classes in an effort to avoid potential student privacy breaches. Although Zoom’s CEO has said the company has mostly addressed privacy concerns, its interface has faced such an influx of users that ironing out all privacy concerns will most likely take more time. Until Zoom takes a stricter approach to ban users who transmit any obscene material, universities should look to host classes on alternative platforms or disseminate education through other methods.

Zoom bombings are not excluded to anonymous users. Instead of disrupting class to write meaningless posts on chat or deliberately leaving microphones on to pick up distracting background noises, students need to be respectful of faculty and their peers. It is the campus’s responsibility to ensure the protection of its students, but students need to do their part by allowing the virtual learning setting to be as normal as possible. Figuring out the logistics involved with virtual classes is a difficult process for all involved, and student cooperation is key in maintaining the integrity of the classroom experience.

Since virtual meetings will be a reality for the foreseeable future, Zoom needs to implement stricter security measures and ban accounts that violate privacy policies. In the meantime, universities and students should work together to find sufficient methods of enriching the classroom experience.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the spring 2020 opinion editor, Simmy Khetpal.