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Culture

Zoombombers Are Hijacking Meetings With Porn And Hate Messages

By Cristina Margolis·· 5 min read
zoombombers hacking meetings

While we are sheltering in place, we are doing our best to work from home, attend school from home, and keep in touch with our family and friends. Zoom is a popular video conference app that has allowed us to do these things.

Millions of people worldwide are using Zoom during this COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, so are Zoombombers — and they are hijacking Zoom meetings with porn and hate messages.

Zoom Wins the Popularity Contest

Since 2011, Zoom has been helping people stay connected worldwide in software-based conference rooms. With Zoom, you can hold virtual meetings, video webinars, and conference rooms. Since sheltering in place began, Zoom has grown tremendously in popularity and is now worth $29 billion. Last month alone, Zoom reached more than 200 million daily participants. 

What people love the most about Zoom is that it’s very easy and straightforward to use. NAZDAQ’s senior manager, Greg Martin, says that Zoom is a breeze to use: “I never get asked about how to use Zoom - people just get accounts and I never hear from them again.”

If little kids can use Zoom so easily and effortlessly, it’s no wonder Zoom is the #1 video conferencing experience in the world right now.

I’d have to agree about Zoom’s ease of use. Even my youngest daughter knows how to use Zoom. Every weekday, my second grader logs onto her classroom’s Zoom meeting and talks to her teacher and classmates for 30 minutes. On Wednesday evenings, she takes her dance class via Zoom while her older sister takes her art class via Zoom. If little kids can use Zoom so easily and effortlessly, it’s no wonder Zoom is the #1 default social platform for video conferencing in the world right now.

The Hell That Is Zoombombing

Unfortunately, hackers with nothing better to do during quarantine have been wreaking havoc in some Zoom rooms, which is now known as Zoombombing. According to Dan Desko, a cybersecurity expert from Schneider Downs, “Zoombombing is nothing more than enumerating different URL combinations in the browser.” 

Hackers are jumping into public Zoom meetings and using the screen-sharing feature to display pornographic images and other graphic content to everyone attending the Zoom meeting. The New York Times journalist Kara Swisher had to abruptly shut down her Zoom meeting with Jessica Lessin about the challenges women tech founders face because a Zoombomber kept sharing the shocking “2 Girls 1 Cup” video and switching user accounts so Swisher was unable to block them.

Zoombombers are also raiding Zoom meetings with hate speech and racial slurs. On March 29, the Concordia Forum, a global network of Muslim leaders, had a Zoom meeting about maintaining spirituality and wellness. During the meeting, a Zoombomber wrote a racial slur on one of the slides, which was followed by a pornographic video while verbally repeating the racial slur. 

Hackers are jumping into public Zoom meetings and using the screen-sharing feature to display pornographic images and other graphic content.

Sad to say, but this is happening everywhere. My own fifth grader’s teacher had to abruptly shut down a Zoom meeting with the class a few weeks ago, because a Zoombomber joined the meeting with a fake picture and began calling out racial slurs.

Got Zoombomed? Here’s What To Do

Getting Zoombomed is an invasion of your privacy. It makes you feel vulnerable, harassed, and even abused. The good news is that  Zoombombing is being taken very seriously. Federal, state, and local law enforcement are warning against Zoombombing, stating that it’s a federal offense that could result in harsh punishments ranging from fines to imprisonment. Matthew Schneider, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern Michigan District, has a message for Zoombombers: “You think Zoombombing is funny? Let’s see how funny it is after you get arrested.”

If you or anyone you know has been Zoombombed, you can report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center

Prevent a Zoombomb Altogether

The FBI has some helpful tips for Zoom users in order to prevent Zoombombing from occurring. First of all, meetings should be set to private. Attendees can either enter a meeting by entering a preset password sent by the host or by being placed in a virtual waiting room and waiting for the meeting host to let them enter the meeting. 

The host should set the screen-sharing option to “Host Only” so that nobody but the host is allowed to manage the screen.

Second, do not publicly share the meeting’s URL. It should only be shared directly with meeting attendants. Third, the host should set the screen-sharing option to “Host Only” so that nobody but the host is allowed to manage the screen. And lastly, make sure you are using the most updated version of Zoom and keep up with its latest security and privacy updates. 

Closing Thoughts

In this new world that we’ve been thrown into, it’s essential that we feel safe not only when we go out, but also in our own home. It shakes me to my core to think about how my young daughters could have easily been exposed to such derogatory images, videos, and speech during an innocent Zoom meeting. Although I try to be a vigilant parent, especially with my daughters’ online use, hackers are constantly looking for a way in.

Fortunately, Zoom is working incredibly hard to improve security measures for their millions of users around the world. Zoom has come up with a 90-Day Security Plan in which its engineering resources will be dedicated solely to security and privacy measures. Zoom’s CEO, Eric Yuan, is holding webinars every Wednesday at 10AM PT/1PM ET to discuss all of the updates with its users, which I feel is going above and beyond. Yuan told Zoom’s users, “I am committed to being open and honest with you about areas where we are strengthening our platform and areas where users can take steps of their own to best use and protect themselves on the platform.”

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