By Christina Dillabough, Director of Communications

Recently, news has circulated about hacking and pranks on zoom accounts and sessions. Despite the recent occurrences, I still recommend Zoom as a safe platform for church meetings and streaming worship. The FBI and Zoom provided some excellent tips and insight to help keep your Zoom sessions and accounts from getting hijacked. Just like when we practiced worship in-person, there is no 100% guarantee that disruptions won’t occur. It’s essential to have safeguards in place and practice what to do if a disruption occurs.

The following are the Conference recommendations and tips to prevent pranksters from invading your Zoom meetings and worship offerings. Watch this video to see how to access your account settings, then follow the guidelines listed below.

Use Zoom webinar for recording worship.

  1. Use the webinar option to collaborate with your worship leaders assigning all participants (not the audience that would be in the pews) as panelists and do not live stream the service. There should not be any audience members in this part of the worship creation process.
  2. Make sure that only your panelists are logged into the Zoom webinar, and everyone is muted except the person who is supposed to be speaking during their part.
  3. You can use the chat feature to speak to each other during the service, but don’t include the chat in the shared recording.
  4. The person that is going to schedule the recorded worship session through YouTube or Facebook Premiere should be logged into the webinar recording the session’s Presenter View to their computer. That person should have admin rights on the church’s Facebook Page or YouTube channel so they can schedule the worship service following the Facebook Premiere instructions or the YouTube live streaming instructions. (Click on the platform name in the previous sentence to find online instructions.) Click here to find information about Facebook’s video-editing feature. Click here to find information about YouTube’s video-editing features.
  5. When the worship service is streamed, the pastor and/or worship leaders should be logged into the social media platform to be able to respond to viewer comments and monitor (and delete or if necessary block) inappropriate responses.

How can I prevent people from hacking into my Zoom account?

  1. Make sure your Zoom account doesn’t share the same password as other accounts you manage.
  2. Change your Zoom password every six months.
  3. Log out of Zoom each day after you’ve finished your Zoom session, and don’t leave your logged-in device unattended.
  4. Stop using reoccurring meeting links and the personal meeting ID. Let Zoom create a custom link every time.
  5. Keep your Zoom software/app updated. To download and run the latest version launch the Zoom app and click on your profile picture to find the “Check for Updates” option.

How can I prevent pranksters from entering my Zoom session and sharing inappropriate content?

  1. Keep your Zoom session links private and don’t post the URL address on social media.
  2. Consider adding a password requirement to your meeting invitation.
  3. Set your meetings so that people can’t join the meeting until the host joins.
  4. Then click not the Security menu to select “Lock Meeting” and prevent new visitors from popping in.
  5. Do not allow file sharing through the Zoom chat.
  6. Set your account settings so that once someone is kicked out of a Zoom meeting, they cannot re-enter.
  7. Set the screen-sharing feature to “only host” instead of all participants. When assembling the agenda for the meeting, ask people to let you know if they will require screen-sharing. When you start the session, assign those people as co-hosts so that they can share their screen in addition to the host.
  8. Turn off annotation capability in your account’s meeting settings.
  9. Consider turning off the “Private Chat” setting or turn off Chat all together in the account settings.

What options are available to the host to stop disruptions in a Zoom session?

  1. If someone is screen-sharing inappropriate content: Click on the up arrow in your Zoom meeting (it’s next to the Share Screen button towards the bottom) and select the “Advanced Sharing Options.” Under “Who can share?” select “Only Host.”
  2. If someone is sharing inappropriate content on Chat: The meeting host can disable chat for all by clicking on the Chat icon, then selecting the three dots button for more options. Under the “Participants can chat with,” choose “No One.”
  3. If an intruder has entered your Zoom session, the host can select “Manage Participants.” Then, find the intruder’s name and click on the down arrow to the right of their name and select, “Remove.” This will remove the intruding participant from your Zoom session. To prevent the intruder from returning to the meeting, make sure your account settings prevent removed participants from rejoining a Zoom session.

Tips about Zoom meetings for small groups.

  1. Only licensed users can host meetings longer than 40 minutes.
  2. Do not share accounts. If the church has only one licensed user and that person is not participating in the Zoom meeting, they cannot schedule a meeting for others to use without the licensed user.
  3. If hosting a meeting using a free account, invite your participants to the meeting and plan for a five-minute break every 40 minutes. During that break, schedule a new session, and send the new meeting link to the participants via email, letting them know the exact time to join the meeting.

About Zoom’s privacy and security policy

“We take security extremely seriously at Zoom. We are always looking to ensure we are protecting our customers and creating a safe environment for all users. We updated our privacy policy the other day to reassure all customers of this commitment.” Jared Heidt, Zoom Account Executive-VAST

Security Toolbar Icon for Hosts: The meeting host will now have a Security option (https://bit.ly/2JP8ffH) in their meeting controls, which exposes all of Zoom’s existing in-meeting security controls one place. This includes locking the meeting, enabling Waiting Room, and more. Users can also now enable Waiting Room in a meeting, even if the feature was not turned on before the start of the meeting. For more information, please visit this recently published Blog at https://bit.ly/3e9AXpp
Invite Button on Meeting Client Toolbar: The button to invite others to join your Zoom meeting is now available at the bottom of the Participants panel.
Meeting ID No Longer Displayed: The meeting ID will no longer be displayed in the title bar of the Zoom meeting window. The meeting ID can be found by clicking on Participants, then Invite or by clicking on the info icon at the top left of the client window.
Remove Attendee Attention Tracking Feature: Zoom has removed the attendee attention tracker feature as part of a commitment to the security and privacy of customers. For more background on this change and how Zoom is pivoting during these unprecedented times, please see a note from Zoom CEO, Eric S. Yuan at https://bit.ly/2XnBLB8
Removal of the Facebook SDK in the iOS client: Zoom reconfigured the feature so that users will still be able to log in with Facebook via their browser.
File Transfers: The option to do third-party file transfers in Meeting and Chat was temporarily disabled. Local file transfer is available with the latest Zoom software release. Third-party file transfers and clickable URLs in meeting chat will be added back in an upcoming release.
New Join Flow for the Web client: By default, users will now need to sign in to their Zoom account or create a Zoom account when joining a meeting with the Web client. This can be disabled by the Admin or the User from their settings page.
Join Before Host Emails Disabled: Notifications sent to the host via email when participants are waiting for the host to join the meeting have been disabled.
Setting to Allow Participants to Rename Themselves: Account admins and hosts can now disable the ability for participants to rename themselves in any meeting. This setting is available at the account, group, and user level in the Web portal.

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Author: Christina Dillabough

Director of Communications for the Desert Southwest Conference.

The Desert Southwest Conference is a diverse and loving organization with open doors to a variety of people and partners in ministry. Celebrating our connection and diversity, we offer various resources. Content on this site includes information from other organizations that may not reflect the official policies or Social Principles of The United Methodist Church or the Desert Southwest Conference.

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