The increased use of Zoom for instructional continuity and remote working across the country has led to a rise in uninvited and unwanted “guests” attempting to join (and occasionally successfully joining) Zoom sessions. This is being called Zoombombing (definition), and it has led to disruptions in the class, displays of offensive material, and distress for the participants in the session.

There have been a few types of Zoombombing, including when an uninvited participant joins a class and attempts to get the attention of all the participants by yelling something offensive or by taking over screen sharing to display offensive material. There have also been reports of participants, either invited or not, using the virtual background feature to display offensive video or images. And, finally, there are reports of participants using the chat function to disrupt the session.

There are a few things faculty can do to protect themselves:

  • Use the Waiting Room feature – any meeting or class can be set up to require the “host” of the class to admit participants into the main Zoom session. Until they are admitted, they are kept in a separate waiting room. Once you’ve admitted all your participants, as the host, you can “lock” the meeting.
  • Set a password for your class or meeting – enabling a password gives you a small measure of protection, but it’s important to note that the password can easily be shared and is in fact included (in a hashed form) in the Zoom URL once a meeting with a password is created.
  • Schedule your class in Zoom through Canvas (and use the password or waiting room feature) – scheduling the meeting in Canvas does not automatically protect the meeting, but it does give your students easy access to the meeting so the meeting URL does not need to be shared by email or by some other mechanism.
  • Require all participants to authenticate before being able to join – this setting requires all participants have a registered Zoom account. While it will not prevent someone from outside of Georgetown from getting into your Zoom session, it may deter casual Zoombombers. The downside to this approach is that students will need to download the Zoom app and login before they can join class.

In addition to these settings, consider the following:

  • Know how to remove a participant – right click on a participant’s video window and select “remove.” The participant will not be able to get back into the session.
  • Check your Zoom settings – you might consider turning off screen sharing, muting participants on entry, and a host of other settings that can help mitigate disruptions in class.
  • Make sure you monitor the chat window – it’s important to let students know that you are paying attention to what they write in that space.
  • Encourage students not to share the URL of the meeting – it would be difficult to stumble upon a Zoom class without knowing the meeting ID#, therefore it’s important to encourage students not to share the class link. You might also consider adding language to your syllabus about the private and protected nature of your course
  • Do not publicly share the URL of your class or meeting – keeping the meeting ID# private is one of the easiest ways to keep your meeting from being Zoombombed. If you need to have a public meeting, consider running it as a webinar instead (see below).
  • Use Zoom Webinars for public meetings – GU-Q IT can help you set up the public event as a webinar, which will give you more control over what your participants are able to do in the Zoom room. Contact zoom@georgetown.edu for more help.

Additional Resources