Image: Malte Mueller / getty
Everyone is stuck inside right now, and everyone is videoconferencing. Yes, even creeps.
The coronavirus and subsequent closing of schools has forced educators around the globe to turn to video chat tools like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and FaceTime in an attempt to continue educating their students from an appropriately socially distanced location. The rush to adopt this tech, however, has opened up both teachers and students to a host of potential privacy violations and harassment.
A group of Norwegian students confronted that disturbing truth this week when a naked man crashed their school’s video call. So reports the Norwegian outlet NRK, which notes that the students involved were children, and that the man was speaking directly to them while engaged in sexual activity.
The videoconference service in question was something called Whereby. In conversation with NRK, Whereby Product and Technology Manager Ingrid Ødegaard apologized and explained that the man had likely guessed the conference call link. Something, she added, that people are actively trying to do.
This incident is obviously horrible, and it’s important to note that opportunities for abuse are not limited to the Norwegian videoconferencing service. Zoom, for example, was forced to contend with the newly dubbed zoombombing — that is, the act of spamming a Zoom chat with undesired pornography.
The video chat tool du jour went so far as to publish a blog post — titled “How to Keep the Party Crashers from Crashing Your Zoom Event” — on March 20 detailing how to prevent unwanted people from ruining your call. At issue is that fact that, unless you have tweaked some very specific settings, practically anyone who has your Zoom meeting link can hop right in.
“Like most other public forums,” reads the blog post, “it’s possible to have a person (who may or may not be invited) disrupt an event that’s meant to bring people together.”
With people posting their Zoom meeting links on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and elsewhere, you can see how this could go south.
Apple’s FaceTime doesn’t have this issue, as you have to manually add people to the call by their phone number or Apple ID. Of course, not everyone has the required macOS or iOS device. What’s more, services like Whereby and Zoom offer a different function than just the straight video calling of FaceTime.
When using Zoom, to prevent randos from hopping in your call and zoombombing it with porn, you’ll want to use the Waiting Room.
“The Waiting Room feature allows the host to control when a participant joins the meeting,” explains the company. “As the meeting host, you can admit attendees one by one or hold all attendees in the waiting room and admit them all at once. You can send all participants to the waiting room when joining your meeting or only guests, participants who are not on your Zoom account or are not signed in.”
Using this feature will allow a Zoom meeting host to keep out unwanted creeps — so go ahead and study up on those complicated and numerous settings.
SEE ALSO: Zoom is a work-from-home privacy disaster waiting to happen
And yeah, we get it: Properly configuring videoconferencing software is probably the last thing on your mind right now. But as the coronavirus pandemic keeps many of us at home for the foreseeable future, it’s worth taking those few extra moments to make sure the only nudity you see on your video screen is consensually displayed.