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Everything you need to know about Zoom

Taylor Gadsden

Apr 14, 2020 — 4 min read

New to Zoom? We’ll teach you the basics on how to start hosting video calls and how to use security settings to defend against “Zoombombers.”

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Although millions have been mandated to “Shelter in Place,” several aspects of life including work and school have continued to move forward for many. Classes need to be taught and business meetings held. Enter the popular video conferencing app called Zoom that you’ve likely heard about in recent weeks. But how do you get started on Zoom and is it safe for kids to use? We’ll explain everything you need to know about the platform and how to complete your setup.

What is Zoom?

Zoom is a video communications platform that is popular with businesses and remote workers. More recently, Zoom has become a key resource in many households as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. According to Forbes, the video service had its biggest day of downloads during the week of March 14 (343,000 users). 

The video and audio tool includes more than a few features that are helping students and workers during these unpredictable times, including:

  • Team and 1:1 chats
  • HD video calls with audio
  • Recording and transcription of meetings
  • Screen sharing and co-annotation
  • Support for up to 1,000 video participants and 49 videos on screen

The features your Zoom account includes will depend on the plan you choose. If you’re a recreational user looking to video chat with family and friends during Shelter in Place, you may want to opt for the free Basic plan. Large groups involved with businesses and schools should consider a more complex plan to allow for a larger capacity and more features.  

How do I get Zoom?

Signing up for a basic plan is easy and free if you have a personal Facebook or Google account you don’t mind associating with the account. Click Sign in with the network of your choice to quickly sign up for a Zoom account.

To sign in manually:

  1. Enter your email address and wait for the Zoom email containing your confirmation link. Select Activate Account in the confirmation email.
  2. Enter your full name and the password of your choice into the fields. Your password must have at least eight characters, one letter, one number and upper and lower case characters.

3. Input a few friends or family members to invite to Zoom, or you can opt to skip this step and start your test meeting.

4. Begin your test meeting by choosing Start Meeting Now. On the following page, select download & run Zoom.

5. Once you have downloaded Zoom, navigate to your personal URL on the Zoom Activation page and select the link to start your test meeting.

6. You’ll have options to join with or without computer audio and video using your webcam. Test your speakers and microphone before you attempt to video chat with a family or friend.

7. Invite your friends and family to also download and use Zoom so that you are able to chat with others. 

Is Zoom safe for kids?

Security concerns were raised after researcher Jonathan Leitschuh published a blog post outlining vulnerabilities within the app. 

The one link entryway method Zoom uses to enter video conferencing may be easy and convenient for users but, according to Leitschuh, it could also allow malicious users to start a meeting and activate your webcam.

The platform released plans to address this concern in future iterations of the tool by giving users more control of their video settings. The company also said they are still unaware of an instance where the vulnerability expressed in Leitschuh’s posts has been exploited. 

That same one link entryway method could result in a term you’ve likely never heard of before this past month: “Zoombombing.”

Zoombombers can get the link to your meeting and can sit in or display any content that they’d like. Zoombombers have been known to disrupt business meetings and even grade school online classes. 

As recently as April 6, the New York City Department of Education has cautioned principals against the platform due to reports of Zoombombing and endorsed services by Google and Microsoft instead. 

“The safety and security of our staff and students is at the forefront of every decision we make around remote learning, and for that reason, we have asked schools to transition away from using Zoom as soon as possible,” a DOE spokesperson told CNBC.

Zoom CEO, Eric Yuan, has publicly acknowledged the platform’s problem with Zoombombing and has released a blog post detailing steps they’ve taken to protect users including an updated privacy policy and removal of the Facebook PSK in their iOS client. 

If you’re concerned about the security of your video conferences, try a few precautions to keep things safe for everyone involved in the call:

  1. Don’t share call invites: Keep the link to your video conference between you and the key participants.
  2. Set up unique meetings: It’s easy and quick to use your Personal Meeting ID to host each meeting, but it’s just as easy for hackers to access your calls after they’ve obtained your ID. 
  3. Require a password: Password protect all calls in your Advanced Settings to add an extra layer of protection.
  4. Deactivate screen sharing: In your Advanced Settings, you can disable screen sharing settings that allow hackers to take control of a meeting and share their own content.

You can also take advantage of some online resources that will help you familiarize yourself and your household with Zoom:

Looking for more ways to connect with loved ones? Check out some additional resources that have grown in popularity during the COVID-19 outbreak.