By Chris Turner
Globally, organizations have shifted in-person meetings to virtual meetings. Churches are certainly included with worship services, staff meetings and small group meetings all adapting to some form of “video conferencing.” The use of technology has been a useful tool to stay connected and keep the ministries of a church moving forward.
However, it has also been an open door for hackers and those with nefarious intentions to invade, disrupt and harm those they target.
There is a wide variety of virtual apps used to visually connect, like iPhone’s Facetime, Microsoft Teams and WebEx, but the application that has risen in popularity as a world leader in virtual conferencing is Zoom Video Communications, Inc.
Zoom’s platform provides video meetings, voice, webinars, and chat across desktops, phones, mobile devices, and conference room systems. According to Zoom’s website, the platform hosts more than 300 million meetings daily. The Tennessee Baptist Mission Board uses Zoom to stay connected with staff and ministers, for conducting board and convention committee meetings, and to host live webinars.
Regardless of the platform, security must be a priority says Doug Finch, TBMB’s Technology Services Manager.
“Most of the tools out there are helpful, depending on what you want to accomplish,” Finch said. “Those applications that are more robust like Zoom, Teams and WebEx offer varying price structures to offer from basic to more comprehensive services. All of them offer security features and users should familiarize themselves as much with those features as they do in how to use the tools.”
Finch added that because of the increased targeting by hackers, video conferencing services frequently offer updates and users should either set their accounts to automatically update, or should regularly check for security updates to keep their accounts current.
Another recommendation Finch made is for users to spend time on their vendor’s website accessing available free resources to improve service and delivery to those viewing an organization’s content. He said there are always “Best Practices” documents that address various aspects of the platform, especially security.
Since Zoom seems to be the service most widely used by Tennessee Baptist churches and associations for a variety of purposes, here are some key tips to keep in mind to ensure meetings stay secure and protected from outside intruders. More information can be found at Zoom.com under the heading, “Privacy and Security for Zoom Video Communications.”
- • Be wise about publicizing meetings on social networks and do not publicly publish links to the meetings, especially if they are not password protected.
- • Use preregistration links rather than actual event links for webinars,.
- • Use password entry into meetings such as webinars, and especially for any meetings that might include children.
- • Set up meetings so that the host must approve participants’ entry into the “room.” Zoom’s “Waiting Room” feature helps control meeting access.
- • Hosts should become familiar with meeting administration tools so that, if necessary, they can immediately block someone for violating meeting standards.
- • Administration settings should be selected to allow the host to share the screen, and anyone to whom the host grants permission.
Finch said these are some basic meeting protection precautions, but that those using Zoom – or any other tool – should invest some time in understanding the available privacy features their chosen service offers.
“Church leaders need to be diligent about their use of this technology,” he said. “These are great tools that allow the ministry of the church to advance, especially in situations like we’ve faced during this pandemic. However, users must also be aware of the real threats from hackers and take responsibility to ensure their users have an enjoyable and productive experience.” B&R