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FBI warning the public about 'Zoom-bombing' of video chats

Alexandra Jokich
Updated: March 31, 2020 06:40 PM
Created: March 31, 2020 05:40 PM

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is issuing a warning about video chats being hijacked by strangers with inappropriate messages.

The FBI said it has received multiple reports of so-called "Zoom-bombing," including some disturbing incidents in online classrooms. In Massachusetts, for example, uninvited guests have yelled profanity and displayed swastika tattoos during school video chats.

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Zoom-bombing is a growing concern as more schools and businesses move meetings online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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"I think it feels like a virtual invasion of privacy," said Sam Richter, a technology entrepreneur from Minnetonka and founder of SBR Worldwide. "There's going to be a lot of copycats, so I think it's really important that companies and schools, in particular, are looking at this issue."

The FBI recommends the following steps be taken to mitigate teleconference hijacking threats:

  • Do not make meetings or classrooms public. In Zoom, there are two options to make a meeting private: require a meeting password or use the waiting room feature and control the admittance of guests.
  • Do not share a link to a teleconference or classroom on an unrestricted publicly available social media post. Provide the link directly to specific people.
  • Manage screen-sharing options. In Zoom, change screen-sharing to "Host-Only."
  • Ensure users are using the updated version of remote access/meeting applications. In January 2020, Zoom updated their software. In their security update, the teleconference software provider added passwords by default for meetings and disabled the ability to randomly scan for meetings to join.
  • Lastly, ensure that your organization's telework policy or guide addresses requirements for physical and information security.

And for teachers using video conferencing, Richter says, "You can also make sure everybody's muted. You can turn off their video so people can't see each other."

South Washington County Schools shared guidelines for their live virtual classrooms with 5 EYEWITNESS News. Cybersecurity protocols include:

  • Keeping live sessions short, 15 minutes or less if possible.
  • Disabling students' video so they are on "audio-only."
  • Instructing teachers not to disclose personal information about students while talking.


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