Coronavirus and Schools: Zoom & Board Meeting Security
We received a handful of inquiries this week voicing concerns about security using Zoom for school board meetings. Some school districts have reported that students and other bad actors have “crashed” virtual board meetings by screaming profanities, and otherwise seeking to disrupt the meeting.
We remain comfortable with using Zoom for a board meeting as it is the biggest player in video conferencing. That means that many people are familiar with it and know how to use it well. For security purposes - we're comfortable with the security guarantees provided by Zoom for the level of security from hackers, etc.
The problematic situations we've heard about in the past two weeks have generally been preventable. The most common is that a link to the video conference is posted publicly on the school district website, and that can lead to rogue parties "crashing" the web conference. This can be (at least partially) prevented by posting on the website that the meeting will be held by video conference and by posting the meeting ID only 30 minutes before the meeting. You should also use a unique meeting ID for every meeting. You can also use the waiting room feature with zoom - and identify each person entering before "allowing" them into the meeting - this prevent anonymous bad actors from joining the meeting also. Throughout the meeting (regardless of the platform used) - your meeting "host" will need to be diligent. We recommended keeping everyone muted unless they need to be speaking at a given moment to prevent disruption. If a bad actor disrupts the meeting, the host should immediately mute and remove the actor from the meeting.
Finally - we have heard that some districts are using the "webinar" feature for zoom - which costs a bit extra, but allows the board to isolate the members into the meeting, but everyone else (the public) is view only. This essentially limits any disruption, but does pose more of an issue with receiving public comment. For the public comment portion of the meeting, the board will need to establish a procedure for members of the public to provide feedback in accordance with the open meetings law.
In the end - these are all common problems with any video conferencing solution. The latest press about security with Zoom is more a function of is popularity than security problems. We expect similar "meeting crasher" issues with other meeting platforms as well.