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FBI Warns Public About ‘Zoom-Bombing’ After Video Chats Hijacked By Porn

by : Lucy Connolly on : 01 Apr 2020 14:35
FBI Warns Public About 'Zoom-Bombing' After Video Chats Hijacked By PornPixabay/BorisJohnson/Twitter

As millions of people adapt to spending most of their time at home in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus, video conferencing app Zoom has become somewhat of a necessity for anyone wanting to keep in touch with their friends, family and co-workers.

Zoom has soared in popularity in the days and weeks following the lockdown of several countries to flatten the curve of COVID-19, with many using it as their sole method of communication.

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Now though, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is issuing a warning to the public about their chats being infiltrated by strangers sending inappropriate and pornographic messages or images.

zoom meetingPA Images

The FBI noted that the app’s popularity appears to have led to a surge in these incidents, known as video-teleconferencing hijacking or simply ‘Zoom-bombing’.

The Boston branch of the law enforcement agency said in a statement:

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As large numbers of people turn to video-teleconferencing (VTC) platforms to stay connected in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, reports of VTC hijacking (also called ‘Zoom-bombing’) are emerging nationwide.

The FBI has received multiple reports of conferences being disrupted by pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language.

In its warning to the public, the agency said it had received multiple reports of this, including two in separate schools in Massachusetts where teachers were using Zoom to conduct online classes.

Online classesPA Images

In one of the incidents, a teacher was conducting an online class when an ‘unidentified individual[s]’ dialled into the classroom. ‘This individual yelled a profanity and then shouted the teacher’s home address in the middle of instruction,’ the FBI said.

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In the other, an unidentified individual again accessed a class’ Zoom meeting, with the law enforcement agency stating: ‘In this incident, the individual was visible on the video camera and displayed swastika tattoos.’

These incidents are happening worldwide, with Rik Ferguson, from the security firm Trend Micro, telling the BBC he first experienced Zoom-bombing while hosting a virtual pub quiz in the UK.

He explained:

I run a virtual pub and we were having a pub quiz when three uninvited guests turned up. One started broadcasting noise and bright, distracting videos, another one streamed porn and the third was just sitting there on his webcam.

Whether all these were the same person, it was hard to know but it was surprising and shocking for those of us in the chat. Zoom-bombing has only become a thing during lockdown as people find new ways to abuse others out of mischief and boredom.

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Meanwhile, a school in Oslo, Norway, was forced to shut down its online video classes after a naked man hijacked a session attended by nine-year-old students, NRK reports.

The man, a stranger, was initially lying on a bed wearing underwear, before he reportedly exposed himself and began masturbating in front of the children. The headmaster of the school confirmed the school is taking a ‘very serious’ look at what happened and that a police report will be filed.

The theory is that the man was able to obtain a link to the video call and entered that way, something which could explain many of the ‘Zoom-bombing’ incidents; somebody could guess the right URL or meeting ID for a Zoom session, giving them access to the conversation.

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Online classesPA Images

The hijacking attempts can also occur because users are holding the meetings on public channels, which are then shared over the internet via URLs, making them accessible to anyone.

The FBI has warned against this, asking individuals to exercise ‘due diligence and caution’ by making their video calls private and avoiding sharing a link to the call on social media. ‘Provide the link directly to specific people,’ the agency urged.

The agency also warned the public to manage screen sharing options, changing it to ‘Host Only’; to use the updated version of Zoom; and to ensure your organisation’s telework policy addresses requirements for physical and information security.

It’s okay to not panic. LADbible and UNILAD’s aim with our coronavirus campaign, Cutting Through, is to provide our community with facts and stories from the people who are either qualified to comment or have experienced first-hand the situation we’re facing. For more information from the World Health Organization on coronavirus, click here.

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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: Health, America, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Pandemic, Porn, United States, Working From Home, Zoom

Credits

FBI Boston and 2 others
  1. FBI Boston

    FBI Warns of Teleconferencing and Online Classroom Hijacking During COVID-19 Pandemic

  2. BBC

    Coronavirus: Racist 'zoombombing' at virtual synagogue

  3. NRK

    Oslo-skole måtte stenge videoundervisning: Naken mann dukket opp på skjermen