Hackers Take Advantage of Upsurge in Zoom Usage

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(Photo: Zoom.us)

In addition to new terms like social distancing and self-quarantining, add Zoombombing to the list. Zoom, a video conferencing application, has been the top free app for iPhones in the United States since March 18, with tens of millions of people forced to use technology to communicate as they’re confined to their homes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But with the app’s rise in popularity has come increased scrutiny over its security measures. In recent weeks, church groups, schools and politicians have reported instances of intruders hijacking their video calls and posting hate speech and offensive images to their Zoom groups.

“Usage of Zoom has ballooned overnight—far surpassing what we expected when we first announced our desire to help in late February,” said Eric S. Yuan, Zoom founder and CEO. “… To put this growth in context, as of the end of December last year, the maximum number of daily meeting participants, both free and paid, conducted on Zoom was approximately 10 million. In March this year, we reached more than 200 million daily meeting participants, both free and paid.”

Two weeks ago, Alex Merritt was discussing a Scripture passage with members of his Sunday school young adults group when all of a sudden, internet trolls infiltrated the meeting and began exposing themselves to the group and drawing obscene images over the Biblical text.

“It was generally chaotic and impossible to stop,” Merritt said.

“I think places of worship need to be really careful when they put public Zoom links on their websites, especially if those links are to meeting spaces where there will be young children,” Merritt told Religion News Service. “Places of worship, ideally, want to be places that anyone can attend. At the moment, they need to balance this desire to be open to all who seek and the reality that there are folks out there who would sabotage these digital spaces.”

Zoombombing has even caught the attention of the FBI. On March 30, the FBI Boston Division issued a press release warning Zoom users to exercise safe cybersecurity practices and asking victims of teleconference hacking to report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.

In response, Zoom has released a guide to help users ensure a safe, uninterrupted Zoom experience. Some tips include:

  • Avoid using your Personal Meeting ID (PMI) to host public events. Your PMI is basically one continuous meeting and you don’t want random people crashing your personal virtual space.
  • Set up your own two-factor authentication. You don’t have to share the actual meeting link. Generate a random Meeting ID when scheduling your event and require a password to join.
  • Familiarize yourself with Zoom’s settings and features so you understand how to protect your virtual space when you need to. For example, the Waiting Room is a helpful feature for hosts to control who comes and goes.
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