Adapting to stay at home orders in the U.S. has dramatically changed how children go to school, how often friends and family can see one another, and how work has had to adapt to an online format. Non-essential workers find themselves behind their computer screens, creating a make-shift offices from their dining room tables. The coffee break chit-chats have been replaced with art exhibitions from one’s toddler and glances between spouses who normally did not get to see one another from 9 to 5. Despite everyone being in their own home, businesses and organizations have tried to maintain some normalcy by continuing meetings to discuss new projects, issues, or just to boost employee morale through virtual happy hours. Businesses such as law firms and therapist offices are even utilizing online meeting formats to meet with clients old and new to continue providing their perspective services.
The website of choice for these meetings has largely been Zoom. Zoom is an online video conferencing tool that allows people to create meetings and invite both users and non-users of Zoom. Many universities and organizations have bought plans from Zoom, allowing them to conference for more than 45 minutes. Zoom provides users with an easy-to-use format with applications such as chat rooms, break out rooms, and the option to mute one’s microphone or camera. What makes Zoom a more user-friendly format from services like Skype and WebEx is the fact that someone who host the Zoom meeting can send a meeting link to a non-Zoom user, meaning not every meeting participant needs to have a Zoom account. All that is required to join is either a link or meeting ID with the occasional password.
The very things that make Zoom more user-friendly, also make it more hacker-friendly. Many users have experienced “hacks” where an unwanted user enters the meeting to only share pornographic or racially discriminatory language. This prompted many N.J. school districts to stop using Zoom for the online classroom. Many hackers have also taken individuals already created Zoom accounts to sell as use as their own. Google, SpaceX, as well as the Taiwanese, Australian, and German governments have banned employees from using Zoom until it improves its security measures.
It comes as no surprise that these security breaches are evidence of the fact that Zoom prior to the Coronavirus Pandemic was not a widely used online conferencing format. After a surge of these data breached, Zoom executives have been working one strengthening their security structure with for their 2.2 million monthly users.
As Zoom is increasing the strength of its security, there are steps Zoom users can take to protecting their meetings. One step is utilizing the waiting-room feature that allows the meeting host to screen which participants can enter the Zoom meeting—allowing only those who were meant to be in the meeting to be in attendance. Another is sharing conference ID numbers instead of meeting links to make access into the Zoom meeting more difficult for hackers and also lessen the chance someone expecting a Zoom meeting invite from clicking on suspicious links. In addition, it may be best to share security sensitive documents through secured email exchanges or mail to avoid a hacker’s ability to obtain copies of contracts or other important business documents.
The good news is the Zoom has taken many steps in the last months to make their software more robust. But as more and more users rely on online tools, there are security measures every user can implement to make sure their information stays safe and private. Simple changes can ensure your Zoom meetings are protected from any unwanted interference. As Zoom meetings replace the conference room, it is important to know the limitations as well as extents individuals can make the most of any software tools to keep the workplace afloat and connect us with one another.
Aleksandra Syniec, who wrote this article, is a second-year law student at Seton Hall University School of Law. She is also knowledgeable in landlord-tenant law and the information technology.