How to enable or disable Geo-Blocking in Zoom?

SecurityAppdrawn Team | Published 5th September 2023
The team at Appdrawn were recently caught out by this, so we thought we would strike while the iron is hot and write a tech tip about it!

For us, a meeting had been set up. Various stakeholders had been invited to join the meeting. But when the time arrived, certain participants could not gain entry to the virtual meeting room. They were met with this message: ‘Unable to Join the Meeting. This meeting is not accessible from [country] at this time.’ So to Dr Google we turned. Putting our keyword search skills to the test, we quickly arrived at an answer. The account the meeting had been arranged on, had inadvertently been set up to limit meetings to users based in certain countries. Whether this was a setting automatically rolled out within an update or a well intentioned human error we are unsure, but there wasn’t an obvious fix!

Cast your mind back to the early days of lockdown; this didn’t seem to be a problem?! Yes people would temporarily disappear from a call; we all laughed at their parting gift of a comical frozen screenshot only to see them reappear a minute later rather bemused from regaling their homeschooling tales to themself. Or worst case scenario, you missed a question or two in one of the many lockdown quizzes. There were no geo blocking issues then, so why now?

In 2020, Zoom introduced a new geo blocking feature whereby you can block users according to their geographical location. Due to pressure applied by the Chinese government, they ended up wrongly suspending three user accounts outside of China for hosting Tiananmen Square Massacre commemorations over the platform. As a result Zoom introduced a geo blocking capability, to, in their words “...enable us to comply with requests from local authorities when they determine activity on our platform is illegal within their borders; however, we will also be able to protect these conversations for participants outside of those borders where the activity is allowed.”

Zoom burst onto the scene as an absolute necessity during the pandemic. However, with life fairly back to normal, it is still a very much explored option on the table, with many opting to host public meetings and online conferences via the platform. Geo-blocking provides the host with an element of control over who can attend the meetings. For example, if you are hosting a meeting concerning local government, geo-blocking can help you target your meeting to the relevant audience in a specific location (to some extent), preventing those for whom it doesn't concern from attending. Geo-blocking also undeniably adds an extra layer of protection to these public virtual meetings. Zoombombing - the act of hijacking a virtual meeting - is increasingly becoming more of a problem. In the most sinister of cases, meetings have been bombarded with pornographic content. Geo-blocking reduces the potential for hijacking by massively reducing the pool of people who are actively wanting to be a nuisance or subversive. This in turn reduces the amount of vetting or management of participants required on the host’s part.

But if this feature isn’t pertinent to you, in fact it is a hindrance to your meetings, how do you get around it? Fear not! Although the setting is quite buried within the platform - in our case, we were on the cusp of adjourning our meeting and continuing on a different platform - once we found the answer, there is a really simple fix.

How to approve or block entry for users from specific countries or regions on Zoom?

Account owners and admins can allow or block the entry of participants to a Zoom meeting according to geographical location by:

  • Login to your online Zoom account as an admin with editing privileges.
  • Go Account Management > Account Settings > Meeting > Security.
  • Ensure the toggle for ‘Approve or block entry for users from specific countries/regions’ is switched to on. If this setting was disabled, when you click the toggle to enable it, a pop up window will appear. Press ‘Turn On’ to verify the change in settings.
  • Select ‘Only allow users from selected countries/regions’ or ‘Block users from selected countries/regions’ as required.
  • Enter the countries and/or regions that you want to allow or block from your account into the ‘Countries/Region’ box and hit ‘Save.’
  • There is the option to make these geographical permissions or restrictions a mandatory setting for all users under your account. To do so press the lock icon, then hit ‘Lock’ to confirm.

Once this setting is enabled, it will apply to all of your future Zoom meetings. If geographical restrictions are no longer applicable to you and you don’t want them impacting who can attend your meetings, follow the first 3 steps in the above instructions. Disable the setting by switching the ‘Approve or block entry for users from specific countries/regions’ toggle to off.

How to approve or block entry for users from specific countries or regions for a specific meeting on Zoom?

Alternatively, if you don’t want to prescribe geo blocking permissions and restrictions for your entire account and only put them into play for certain meetings, you can. To set up geo blocking for specific meetings:

  • Login to your online Zoom account
  • Go to the meeting in question.
  • Press ‘Edit.’
  • Click on the ‘Show’ text expansion link next to the subheading ‘Options’ at the bottom of the screen.
  • Tick  the ‘Approve or block entry to users from specific regions/countries’ box. 
  • In the pop up window, click ‘Turn On’ to verify the change in settings.
  • Enter the countries and/or regions that you want to allow or block from your meeting into the ‘Countries/Region’ box and hit ‘Save.’
Appdrawn Team | Updated 5th September 2023

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