The stars really are just people. Well, at least when it comes to videoconferencing screw-ups, that is.
With the world socially distancing in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the former cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation decided to celebrate Marina Sirtis’s March 29 birthday in a responsible manner — i.e., a Zoom videoconference party. There’s just one problem: Jonathan Frakes tweeted LeVar Burton’s Zoom recurring Meeting ID.
If that’s a jumble of meaningless words to you, then, like many Americans, you’re likely unfamiliar with the host of settings tweaks required to keep a Zoom meeting relatively private. If necessary precautions aren’t taken, then Zoom meetings can be crashed by uninvited guests, or spammed with porn.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at Frakes’s tweet.
“Zoom Birthday for @Marina_Sirtis with @levarburton @SirPatStew @akaWorf @wilw @BrentSpiner @gates_mcfadden,” it reads.
It is accompanied by a photo showing the former cast-mates clearly enjoying themselves on a Zoom call.
In the photo, clearly visible, are two key pieces of information: The Zoom Meeting ID and the day and time.
Now, you may be wondering what harm there is in such information a full day after Sirtis’s party concluded. Well, using the Zoom Meeting ID in the photo, someone can determine that the Meeting ID is for “LeVar Burton’s Personal Meeting Room” and that “This is a recurring meeting.”
What is a recurring meeting, you ask? Thankfully, Zoom’s help page has an answer.
“Zoom allows you to schedule meetings with multiple occurrences, so that each occurrence uses the same meeting ID and settings,” it reads. “You can schedule these meetings in daily, weekly, and monthly increments. You can also set a recurring meeting to be used at any time.”
Recurring Meeting IDs, it’s worth noting, last a full year.
With the day and time displayed on Frakes’s computer, (and a simple online search of where Frakes lives — thus revealing his time zone), a bad actor or overzealous fan could guess the timing of Burton’s upcoming scheduled Zoom get-togethers and potentially crash them.
But all is not lost.
Now that Burton knows the information is out there, he can take a few steps to secure his future Zoom meetings. First, if he hasn’t already, he can turn on Zoom’s “waiting room” setting. This allows him to screen any incoming visitors before letting them into his video calls. And, if he didn’t already, then he should check the box next to “require meeting password” when setting up a new Zoom meeting for his friends.
In general, people should be careful sharing photos of their desks and computer screens on social media. They often reveal more than intended (hi, Kurt Eichenwald!), and a host of so-called zoombombing incidents makes it clear that people are willing and able to abuse any slip up.
So lock that shit down, Burton. And Frakes, try not to tweet out your friend’s Zoom Meeting IDs anymore? The world is already sad enough right now, and the last thing we need is people screwing with the crew of the Enterprise.