As workplaces, schools, and places of worship go online due to the coronavirus pandemic, the FBI publicly warned that Zoom calls were being targeted and hijacked, a practice known as "Zoombombing." Now, VICE has found evidence of racist users of the site formerly known as 8chan coordinating an online harassment campaign against a Jewish academy for children in Philadelphia.
The news is yet more evidence of privacy and security concerns lingering around the video-conferencing app, which has exploded in popularity during the Covid-19 crisis, and gives a peek into how the far-right is coordinating a growing attack: Zoombombing Jewish users. It is also further confirmation that 8chan, which has been heavily linked to white supremacism and extremist chatter for years, continues to be a repository of hate speech—even during a time of global pandemic and under a new name, which VICE will not publish in order to avoid further amplification of the site.
A post from Tuesday, on the successor site to 8chan provided links to the Zoom calls of teachers at the Jewish school, with instructions to “really freak them out,” and included a reference to the “Boogaloo,” which is commonly known among the far-right as a future “race war” in the U.S. One user replied to the original message and made it clear the planned Zoombombing was racially motivated.
The Counter Extremism Project, the U.S.-based global terrorism watchdog that first spotted the post targeting the Jewish day school in Philadelphia, said that federal authorities were aware of the Zoombombing plans. The FBI declined to comment
VICE, which will not name the school in Philadelphia to protect it from further targeting, couldn’t confirm with the school if the Zoombombing was successful after calls went unanswered.
Zoom told VICE as per company policy it will not, “disclose information regarding privately reported incidents.”
Earlier this week, the online Zoom service of a synagogue in the United Kingdom attended by over 200 worshipers was hijacked by racists who began spewing hateful speech to shocked congregants over the videoconferencing app.
Thursday, security journalist Brian Krebs reported on a tool that is being used to automatically call into Zoom chats that are not password protected. And Zoom announced that it is spending the next 90 days focused solely on security, to solve a host of design decisions and bugs that security researchers have said makes the app vulnerable.
To protect against Zoom calls being hijacked, the FBI told users to make sure they set meetings and classrooms on the app to private, to keep links shared within closed networks, make screen sharing “Host Only,” and to ensure they’re using the latest version of Zoom, which the agency said had addressed security issues regarding hijackers being able to scan the site for public meetings in an earlier software update.
After several neo-Nazi terrorists used 8chan to post their manifestos online throughout 2019, the site was deplatformed by several internet infrastructure companies, including Cloudflare. Soon after, it reappeared under a new name and backed by a controversial internet provider that is popular among neo-Nazis.