May 26, 2020

SAM C. AYO|’ZOOM Booming’: Live Public Webinar Sessions ‘hacking’ Precautions


Without preparations, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to several businesses resorting to remote working in just a matter of days. T

his situation, therefore, led to a burst in video conferencing, cloud-based e-meetings, educational webinars as a digital alternative to the social distance, which ensures safety from COVID-19.

Everything may seem perfect in a closed user group e-meeting or webinar with a group of acquaintances. However, what if you had a public session on one of these many freely available cloud conferencing tools like ZOOM, Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook live, or Hangout with different audiences who have different expectations and intentions? Could these platforms’ engagements be compromised by malicious audiences? What possible compromises and interruptions could be expected? Can they be minimized? How could hosts ensure minimal interruptions to public webinars?

In one of my recent public webinars hosted by Milima Security ‘Pursuing a Cybersecurity career during and post COVID-19’ using ZOOM video conferencing, we had just over 50 attendance. However, the session was ‘zoom boomed’ with inappropriate content shared on the chats and deliberately loud inappropriate audio from a few audiences microphones continents apart.

The zoom bombing disrupted the session for almost five or slightly more minutes till the host started removing subscribers who had not muted their microphones. Of course, such experiences can have some negative impact on the overall session environment. You don’t know all who they’re in the audience. Could the host have muted all microphones and chats in an interactive webinar? If the host did just that, where would the interaction be? It was such a learning experience for us to make future webinars even more productive.

So, what to look out for when organizing a public webinar?

  1. Choose the tool that gives you more control over your audience’s contribution and participation. You may have to pay a small subscription for more control features.
  2. Some audiences in open login webinars are just idle and are not in the session for any good. Avoid random logins and setup registration forms before the session starts so you can audit attendance.
  3. Set up some ‘webinar’ house rules before the start of each public webinar session. Like, we are not disclosing unnecessary personal information, muting microphones if one is not contributing, sticking to time allocations, avoiding offensive or inappropriate content sharing, and ensuring stable internet connectivity to avoid dropouts. The host should not forget to remind the audiences of NOT sharing confidential company information during a public webinar session.
  4. Public webinars can be an attractive environment for criminals to harvest users personal information or do reconnaissance. The audiences should be encouraged not to activate their webcams if it is going to show too much information about their household interiors.

And take extra precautions when you have to share more information with someone you met in the audience during a public webinar session.

About author: Sam C. Ayo is a Security Analyst at Milima Security, a cybersecurity enterprise in Uganda

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