I think it’s great that everyone is now turning to virtual chat services to stay in touch with their friends and loved ones—everything from regular catch-ups, to awkward dinner hangouts, to Dungeons & Dragons games. What’s not so fun is when someone jumps into a Zoom call, public or otherwise, and starts screen-sharing porn to all the meetings’ recipients.
“Zoombombing,” as it’s now known, is an annoying byproduct of an otherwise useful feature in a business context. After all, if you’re sharing your screen on a company meeting, odds are good you have useful information to give the other participants; odds are also very good that you aren’t going to blast them with a meme, or porn, or whatever, because you enjoy getting paid every two weeks.
Random people on the internet don’t have these restrictions when they’re one of 100-plus members of a public Zoom chat, though. And it’s up to the host to tweak some settings that aren’t enabled by default in order to prevent mischief before it starts. Thankfully, this is pretty easy to do in the Zoom desktop app—as long as you remember to do it.
First off, when you schedule a future meeting (by clicking the big, obvious button in Zoom’s interface), simply require everyone to enter a password to join. While this won’t much help if you’re intentionally trying to get as many people around the web as possible to hang out with you, it’s an easy way to lock down any regular meeting you’re having.
Also, resist the urge to use your Personal Meeting ID as the Zoom meeting ID—it’s a single, simple URL that anyone can use to access any meeting you’re throwing with it, as it never changes. In other words, it’s your secret go-to room, and if you start sharing that with everyone (and forget to password-lock your meetings), anyone could hop in to your meetings if they know your personal meeting ID.
You could take the draconian step in this window to ban participants from being able to show video at all in your meeting—somewhat limiting your ability to be productive, but an easy way to ensure they won’t show something they shouldn’t.
Click on Advanced Options, and you’ll see some additional useful tools:
Don’t click on “Enable join before host,” or else people will be able to screw around in your meeting without your being there to punish them. And do everyone a favor and check “mute participants on entry,” because you know five people are going to forget and make everyone’s ears bleed while everyone else yells for people to mute their mics.
Done? Not quite. Once you’ve launched your meeting and you’re staring at everyone’s lovely faces, consider clicking on Manage Participants, and then click on the “More” button. You’ll see the following options, which you can use to control some of the chaos in your meeting:
That last option is especially great; once everyone is in your meeting who you want to be there, you can lock it down. When you do, new people won’t be able to join even if they have the meeting ID and/or password.
Finally, here’s the biggie. Go back to the primary Zoom meeting window and click on the up arrow next to Share Screen. From there, click on Advanced Sharing Options, where you’ll see this screen:
Flip “Who can share?” to “Only Host,” and you’ll have saved your meeting—public or otherwise—from chaos. Why this isn’t the default option for Zoom, or why you can’t set it as such, we’ll never know.
Bonus settings on Zoom’s website
Zoom’s app doesn’t have every setting you can use to control the chaos of your meetings. You’ll have to visit its website to play with a few of its most helpful options. For example, within its basic settings, you can block private chats in your meetings, turn off the public chat entirely, and block file transfers—useful so trolls don’t try to spam your willing participants.
You can also disable annotations and whiteboards, if you’re worried that people might try to draw unpleasant things during your call. Over in the Advanced “In Meeting” settings, you might want to consider disabling Zoom’s virtual background feature—a way that a person can replace their video background with any image they want, which could get unpleasant.
And here’s a fun option worth remembering for those logging in to a Zoom call—specifically, one for your job. If enabled, a meeting’s host can see if you’re actually paying attention to the meeting or potentially doing something else when you should be focusing cough cough hint hint.