By Kristi Eaton
During the past few months, a large percentage of U.S. residents have been using Zoom and other virtual platforms to do everything from hold business meetings, happy hours and even graduations from high school and college.
But with the increase in online experiences have come security threats. In Zoom, it’s sometimes called Zoombombing, and it’s when an unauthorized person enters the group meeting and posts racists, misogynistic, anti-Semitic and other harmful and hateful material.
In Oklahoma, soon-to-be graduates taking part in an online ceremony at Oklahoma City University in May were the victims of such an attack. Hijackers posted racist, bigoted and anti-Semitic information, cutting short the ceremony, according to university President Martha Burger. She took to Twitter soon after and apologized for the incident.
“I am deeply saddened that our university family experienced the pain of this hateful act today,” she wrote on the official university Twitter account. “I want to remind you that even though the academic year has ended, we are here to help you through this.”
She added: “I cannot remove this pain and hurt, but I want you to know, that at OCU, we will continue to pursue the values that define us – values of integrity, respect, diversity and inclusion, and collaboration. We will work together to ensure that love, not hate, prevails.”
In Michigan, a city meeting was disrupted in Kalamazoo. During a public comment portion, people started using profanities, according to M Live. And professors at both Arizona State University and the University of Southern California have encountered attacks, according to Insider Higher Ed.
The proliferation has even caused the FBI to take notice – the Bureau’s Boston office said it had received “multiple reports of conferences being disrupted by pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language.”
Florida resident Mikaela Walker was hosting an exercise class for kids through her business, Orlando Parents Family Fun Magazine, when hijackers came on and started using curse words. The instructor tried to mute them but they kept unmuting themselves.
“Parents started to drop off … which is understandable. We ended up canceling the class and the kids were extremely disappointed,” she said, adding that she was left angry.
Still, she doesn’t think such incidents should stop people from socializing and using Zoom and other platforms for connection and educational opportunities. She recommends that people not share the meeting information on the Internet, and open meetings should require registration. “That extra step will probably deter people from Zoombombing your meeting,” she added.
She also said to mute everyone on entry, among other tips.
Aaron Zander, IT at HackerOne, also has recommendations for safety tips when it comes to videoconferencing calls. Enabling the waiting room feature means the host will have to allow in the guests. Also, locking the meeting once everyone is present prevents others from entering.