Tech

Hackers Are Disrupting Zoom Video Calls With Porn and Hate Speech

If you're working from home and using the popular video conferencing app, you probably want to read this.
02 April 2020, 2:00pm
zoom video call app hacked porn
Photo courtesy Zoom

This article originally appeared on VICE India.

Video conference calls on platforms like Zoom are being hijacked and used to broadcast pornographic images or threaten the people on the call, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has warned. Zoom's popularity has soared amid the coronavirus pandemic, as more and more homebound people are relying on such easy-to-use apps to settle into the new work-from-home situations, or stay connected with loved ones. Work meetings, virtual classroom education, fitness workouts and social gatherings all can take place on this teleconference app, which competes with Google Hangouts and Skype for having similar features.

But its popularity has also attracted trolls. "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 said in a statement.

The FBI highlighted two stories that happened at schools in the Massachusetts area. One of them had a high school report that an unidentified individual(s) dialled into their virtual classroom and yelled a profanity before shouting the teacher's home address. Another school in the same state reported the appearance of an unknown person with swastika tattoos. Both happened in March, as the coronavirus crisis grew, the FBI said. "As individuals continue the transition to online lessons and meetings, the FBI recommends exercising due diligence and caution in your cybersecurity efforts," said the law enforcement agency. There are loads of other people who have complained of being “zoom-bombed” as well.

Zoom has been under fire quite often these days, from being accused of leaking people’s email addresses and photos to strangers to facing a class action lawsuit by a user for the data transfer. While Zoom offers end-to-end encrypted chat—which means that only the participants in the exchange have access to the contents of the messages—its video calls are not encrypted in the same way by default. Also, thanks to a creepy feature, hosts can track whether you’re paying attention in meetings, and the company’s privacy policy allows it to collect all sorts of personal data. Last year, a security researcher had put up a post highlighting Zoom’s vulnerability that could allow hackers to hijack your video cam.

For precautions, the FBI has come out with some basic measures that users must take—from not making meetings or calls public to not sharing links to the call on social media or other public platforms. Another effective way is to change screensharing to “Host Only”, which means that anyone on the chat would not be able to show images or other upsetting things to anyone else in the conversation, except the one hosting.

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