Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology

Instructional Continuity: Preventing and Responding to Zoombombing

Instructional Continuity

Cal Poly has a license for ZOOM, a video conferencing software that allows for live streaming or recording of instructors’ lessons, meetings, or office hours. ZOOM allows for video, audio, screen sharing, group breakout rooms, chat, and polling. It can be used from any computer, laptop, tablet, or phone, and it works on Mac, PC, iOS and Android devices with the ZOOM app downloadable from the Apple App Store (iOS) or GooglePlay (Samsung and Android).

Cal Poly ZOOM:

Preventing and Responding to Zoombombing

Responding to Incidents of Zoombombing

In the rare case that an outside participant disrupts your virtual synchronous meeting, the suggestions below may help you to respond quickly and appropriately. This interruption is commonly referred to as Zoombombing—a specific type of online harassment in which an outside participant enters a meeting and shares inappropriate content, harasses the presenter or participants, or otherwise disrupts the meeting. 

  • Remove the participant. In an instance of “zoombombing” you have several options in Zoom to immediately end the participant’s access to your class. If you are not sure if the person who is sharing inappropriate content is a member of your course, you can immediately move the participant to the waiting room. When you are sure that the participant is not a student in your course, you can immediately mute the microphone or stop the video of the participant by clicking the microphone or video icons in the participant menu next to the participant’s name. Then, you will want to immediately remove the participant entirely from the meeting, as follows: 1) click on the participants menu, 2) position your mouse over the name of the participant and select more, 3) click remove to remove the participant, 4) when Zoom asks if you are sure that you want to remove the participant, click ok. To learn more about this strategy and other ways to deal with unwanted participants visit Zoom’s page on managing participants in a meeting and read CTLT’s information on preventing zoombombing. If you are unable to quickly remove the participant you always have the option to immediately end the meeting and to send a follow-up email to your students with information for joining a new session. 
  • Acknowledge the situation. You will want to immediately communicate to your students that you believe that the class has been zoombombed by an outside participant, whether you decide to proceed with the class or not. There will be some situations in which you may not want to proceed with the class, but the judgment is yours to make. If you intend to continue, or to discuss with your students whether to continue, you might say, “I want to let you know that the person who entered our meeting just now was not a member of our class and I did my best to quickly remove them from this space. I realize, though, that what you saw and heard might have been troubling or upsetting and that you may be feeling a mix of emotions. I, myself, am feeling [insert any feelings you are comfortable sharing]. I’d like to continue with class, but I want to take a moment to check in about whether you are open to proceeding with class.” You can then ask students to respond in a short poll on Zoom. Another option is to let the students know that you will take a 5-10 min break and then ask students to sign into a new Zoom meeting, which you can share with them through email or Canvas. Depending on the specific nature of the situation, make the decision together about whether it is best to continue with class or to adjourn for the day. 
  • After class. Review your Zoom settings to determine how the participant was able to enter. Watch the CTLT’s video Tips for Zoom Security Settings. For additional help with Zoom you can contact the CTLT directly at ctlt@calpoly.edu. Report the incident directly to Cal Poly’s Information Security team at security@calpoly.edu so they can conduct a forensics analysis and provide details with Zoom. If you believe the participant may have been a Cal Poly student you can submit an incident report through the Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities. If you have additional questions about how best to deal with this situation, contact your department chair, deans, or the CTLT for additional assistance. 

Preventing Zoombombing

The information on Zoombombing below is adapted from the article In Video Chats, Familiar Forms of Online Harassment Make a Comeback.

Zoombombing, is a term to describe a specific type of online harassment in which an outside participant enters a meeting and shares inappropriate content, harasses the presenter or participants, or otherwise disrupts the meeting. Zoombombing has been happening with increased frequency as many have moved to virtual instruction, meetings, and other gatherings. Oftentimes, the intent of Zoombombing is to share explicitly racist, sexist, or other oppressive materials or hate speech. Past research has shown that people of color and women are most likely to experience online harassment and that this harassment is often focused on race, gender, physical appearance, and political views. To learn more about recent occurrences of Zoombombing, visit the resource articles at the end of this page. 

Below are some recommended steps to prevent Zoombombing when you use Zoom. Many of these steps are adapted or taken directly from Zoom’s guide on preventing Zoombombing called How to Keep the Party Crashers from Crashing Your Zoom Event:

Use the CTLT resources for setting strong security settings for your zoom account. These resources will walk you through all of the necessary steps for securing your account. 

Video: Tips for Zoom Security Settings

PDF: Quick Overview of Tips for Zoom Security Settings  

Always sign into your Zoom account using Cal Poly’s SSO (Single Sign-on through the Cal Poly portal), rather than using a personal account. In March 2020, in an effort to prevent Zoombombing during classes, Zoom made all meetings hosted in education accounts default to “host only” screensharing. This move prevents others on the call from sharing their screen. To read more about this change and how to enable screensharing for your participants, read March 2020: Update to Sharing Settings for Education Accounts.

Always use a password for your Zoom sessions. Make sure that all meetings and classes are password protected and distribute the password only to those who should have access.

Do not publicly share the link to your course meetings. Instead, share Zoom links only with your students using the LMS (PolyLearn or Canvas) or by email. When you publicly share a Zoom link on a webpage, for example, anyone can join that Zoom meeting. 

Do not use your Personal Meeting ID (PMI) for teaching. Instead, schedule a meeting  with the "Generated Automatically" option and share the link to the scheduled meeting with your students via Canvas, PolyLearn or email. Your personal meeting ID gives you a permanent virtual space to hold meetings and the PMI does not change. This means that if you share your PMI, it is always accessible with the same ID and link and students may attempt to come in when a meeting is not hosted by you. Only share the PMI with people you meet with regularly and with whom you are comfortable having permanent access to your PMI. 

Manage Screen Sharing. As noted above, if you are signed in through your Cal Poly account, this will be done automatically. If not, you will want to manually disable screen sharing for participants. You can do this either before or during a meeting. To prevent participants from screen sharing during a meeting, using the host controls at the bottom, click the arrow next to Share Screen and then Advanced Sharing Options. Under “Who can share?” choose “Only Host” and close the window. You can also lock the Screen Share by default for all your meetings in your ZOOM web settings under Settings in the left menu in the calpoly.zoom.us website.

Manage your Participants. Some of the other great features to help secure your Zoom event and host with confidence:

  • Allow only signed-in users to join: If someone tries to join your event and isn’t logged into Zoom with the email they were invited through, they will receive this message: This meeting is for authorized attendees only. This is useful if you want to control your guest list and invite only those you want at your event — other students at your school or colleagues, for example.
  • Lock the meeting: It’s always smart to lock your front door, even when you’re inside the house. When you lock a Zoom Meeting that’s already started, no new participants can join, even if they have the meeting ID and password (if you have required one). In the meeting, click Participants at the bottom of your Zoom window. In the Participants pop-up, click the button that says Lock Meeting. However, be aware that late birds will not be allowed into the meeting.
  • Set up your own two-factor authentication: You don’t have to share the actual meeting link! Generate a random Meeting ID when scheduling your event and require a password to join. Then you can share that Meeting ID on Twitter but only send the password to join via DM.
  • Remove unwanted or disruptive participants: From that Participants menu, you can mouse over a participant’s name, and several options will appear, including Remove. Click that to kick someone out of the meeting.
  • Allow removed participants to rejoin: When you do remove someone, they can’t rejoin the meeting. But you can toggle your settings in Settings on the Cal Poly Zoom website to allow removed participants to rejoin, in case you boot the wrong person.
  • Put attendees on hold: You can put everyone else on hold, and the attendees’ video and audio connections will be disabled momentarily. Click on someone’s video thumbnail and select Start Attendee On Hold to activate this feature. Click Take Off Hold in the Participants list when you’re ready to have them be able to enter the room again.
  • Disable video: Hosts can turn someone’s video off. This will allow hosts to block unwanted, distracting, or inappropriate gestures on video or for that time when your friend’s inside pocket is the star of the show.
  • Mute participants: Hosts can mute/unmute individual participants or all of them at once. Hosts can block unwanted, distracting, or inappropriate noise from other participants. You can also enable Mute Upon Entry in your settings to keep the clamor at bay in large meetings.
  • Turn off file transfer: In-meeting file transfer allows people to share files through the in-meeting chat. Toggle this off to keep the chat from getting bombarded with unsolicited pics, GIFs, memes, and other content.
  • Turn off annotation: You and your attendees can doodle and mark up content together using annotations during screen share. You can disable the annotation feature in your Zoom settings to prevent people from writing all over the screens.
  • Disable private chat: Zoom has in-meeting chat for everyone or participants can message each other privately. Restrict participants’ ability to chat amongst one another while your event is going on and cut back on distractions. This is really to prevent anyone from getting unwanted messages during the meeting.

Use the Waiting Room. One of the best ways to use Zoom for public events where you're afraid there might be Zoombombing is to enable the Waiting Room feature. Just like it sounds, the Waiting Room is a virtual staging area that stops your guests from joining until you’re ready for them. It’s almost like the velvet rope outside a nightclub, with you as the bouncer carefully monitoring who gets let in. However, the Waiting Room is an excellent tool to use for office hours, where one student comes into the meeting to discuss an issue with you and the other students see a message that you are currently with a participant and that you will let them into the room when the private office hour with the current student is over.

Meeting hosts can customize Waiting Room settings for additional control, and you can even personalize the message people see when they hit the Waiting Room so they know they’re in the right spot. This message is really a great spot to post any rules/guidelines for your event, like who it’s intended for. The Waiting Room is really a great way to screen who’s trying to enter your event and keep unwanted guests out.

If Zoombombing happens to you even after you have followed these steps, you can report it by submitting a request to Zoom support.

Read about recent incidences of Zoombombing:

'Zoombombing' Attacks Disrupt Classes

In Video Chats, Familiar Forms of Online Harassment Make a Comeback

[The information on this page is drawn from In Video Chats, Familiar Forms of Online Harassment Make a Comeback and How to Keep the Party Crashers from Crashing Your Zoom Event.]



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