Surprise visitors not so welcome in the virtual classroom

Olivia Alvord, Staff Writer

Virtual classes have been faced with frequent occurrences of ‘Zoom bombings’. Photo retrieved from Twitter.com

With the increased online presence that the COVID-19 pandemic has created, K-12 schools, colleges and universities, alike have faced many new challenges. One of these challenges is the idea of “Zoom bombing” which has been occurring in classrooms across the world since the move to virtual learning in March. The term refers to unwanted intrusions by disruptive visitors in video conferencing calls. 

Although popularized on Zoom, this act has been happening across all kinds of online learning platforms including Google Meet and Microsoft Teams. Common disruptions include vulgar videos, inappropriate music, screaming, racial prejudices, and other targeted disruptions. This has happened equally in the workplace, virtual K-12 classroom, and college and university setting. 

Once these platforms got word that this was happening, they put forth different rules and regulations for their video conferencing features in the hopes of eliminating the unwanted disruptions. However, there are still some features that need to be turned on by the host to maintain safety. 

Before nicknames and meeting codes were introduced, anyone could hack in, thus exposing class meetings and video conferences vulnerable to hackers, and exposing students and teachers to unwanted and inappropriate vulgarities. 

“No one’s immune from this threat. Even founder and editor in chief of the tech website The Information, Jessica Lessin, tweeted about how her video call was hijacked by someone who shared pornography,” wrote cyber-security journalist Kate O’Flaherty for Forbes.

Although significant effort has been put forward by each of the platforms to change this, it has become somewhat normalized for this to happen. The unfortunate reality is that “Zoom bombings” are frequent occurrences, even with proper precautions on the platform’s end. 

Many schools have taken it upon themselves to publish advice on ways to prevent “Zoom bombings” from occurring. When Saint Martin’s virtual High-Stakes BINGO event got hacked on Zoom earlier this semester, Saint Martin’s issued a statement and series of emails in the hopes of recognizing this disruptive and inappropriate act and spreading awareness on campus. 

Occidental College in Los Angeles, Calif. has also addressed the matter at hand. They took it a step further and even dedicated a place on their website to help students and staff prevent “Zoom bombings” from occurring. This publication highlights the host controls and settings that are most helpful in keeping meetings private and free of unwanted guests, such as turning off screen-sharing and locking the meeting once all participants are in (allowing participants to rejoin with no problem if they have connection issues). It also encourages hosts to avoid the use of Personal Meeting IDs and to generate a random one instead. They also address the use of waiting rooms to control attendees.

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