Zoom meetings have fast become a way of social and educational life during the coronavirus pandemic, but now state and federal authorities are warning of the danger lurking in those online meetings.
It’s called Zoombombing.
Last Friday night, Jewish students and family members attended an online Shabbat service through University of Miami Hillel. In the middle of a prayer, hackers suddenly took over the Zoom meeting, shouting anti-Semitic slurs.
“We were shocked,” said Igor Khokhlov, executive director for the group. “They jumped right in, we tried to block them and kick them off the broadcasting, but somehow they were able to freeze the screen on them.”
State attorney general Ashley Moody warns those attacks are on the rise.
“There are some steps you can take to increase privacy and prevent zoombombing,” she said in a video release. “Steps like creating separate passwords for each virtual meeting. Establishing a zoom waiting room for meeting participants. Locking down the meeting once everyone invited to attend has joined. And never publicly posting meeting links on social media or any other public forum.”
Security concerns led New York City public schools to ban the platform altogether, but Zoom meetings remain a key way for thousands of Miami-Dade students to see their teachers every day.
Miami-Dade Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the district’s Zoom classes remain protected - as long as teachers and students access them through the school system’s portal.
“The few cases that I have been made aware of penetration into our system were done not because anybody broke through the barriers and the filters we have, it’s because somebody accessed somebody else’s password,” Carvalho said.
Now Igor Khokhlov is stepping up security to make sure future online Hillel gatherings remain hacker-free.
“Moving forward… we are upgrading all of our Zoom accounts, we are working with the university to make sure that everything is password protected,” he said.
Zoom representatives say they’re increasing protection by enabling passwords for meetings and turning on waiting rooms by default.