The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued a warning to “Zoom Bombers” and other hackers who disrupt private teleconferences during the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement released on Friday, April 3, the DOJ said “anyone who hacks into a teleconference can be charged with state or federal crimes. Charges may include – to name just a few – disrupting a public meeting, computer intrusion, using a computer to commit a crime, hate crimes, fraud, or transmitting threatening communications. All of these charges are punishable by fines and imprisonment.”
A Burgeoning Threat
During the pandemic, the issue of “Zoom Bombing” or “Zoombombing” has become a national concern, as millions of Americans sheltering at home rely on Zoom and similar apps to continue working or studying. The Los Angeles Times reported last month on a California school district conference that was disrupted when “unrecognized users jumped into the group meeting and began chanting the N-word repeatedly,” as well as posting “[c]lose-up pornographic images.”
The outlet also described a public event hosted on Zoom by Chipotle and the musician Lauv. Reportedly, the March event had to be shut down “after someone started broadcasting hardcore porn to the hundreds of people tuning in.”
Zoom Bombers On Notice
In response to these incidents and many more, the DOJ has pledged to crack down on Zoom bombers. Officials have come out strongly in favor of the Department of Justice’s message. “You think Zoom bombing is funny? Let’s see how funny it is after you get arrested,” said US Attorney Matthew Schneider of the East Michigan district. Schneider warned potential pranksters in his state that “you could have federal, state, or local law enforcement knocking at your door.”
Meanwhile, Special Agent in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono said, “It is a shame that during a pandemic, which is causing fear and anxiety across the globe, that there are wrongdoers seeking to disrupt virtual environments which have become essential to communication, teleworking and online learning.” D’Antuono urged citizens to “practice good cyber hygiene.”
How to Stop Zoom Bombers
In addition, the Department’s statement included tips to help Zoom users keep their conferences secure. These include:
- Making sure your meeting or classroom is not set to public
- Refraining from sharing links to conferences on unrestricted and public available social media platforms
- Changing screen sharing options to “Host-Only,” ensuring only the leader of the meeting can share what’s on their screen
- Making sure the app is updated, ensuring that security settings are up-to-date
- Ensuring a telework policy for your organization that covers physical and information security
You can read more about how to protect against Zoom bombers and other forms of teleconference hacking here.
The Department provided links to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center to report teleconferencing hijacking or any other cybercrime. It also urged those who have received specific threats via teleconference to report it directly to the FBI tip line.