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‘Zoom Bombing’ is an FBI concern, keep hackers out of chats

Hackers getting into video chats, viewing webcams
Zoom video chats have become one of the most popular ways of staying connected during COVID-19 social distancing.
Posted at 3:08 PM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 16:45:48-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Virtual video chats have become the new normal.. and the Zoom meeting app has seen a huge increase in the number of people using it since stay at home orders were issued across the country. News5 has an important warning about why you'll want to take extra steps to guard your webcam and to keep hackers out of your video chats.

With many people working remotely and some of us just stuck at home, Zoom chat or video chats have become a part of daily life for many of us. It's important for keeping up with work and also for school, but what if an unexpected guest joins the chat. It's already happening and the FBI put out a warning saying it's a major concern.

In Boston un-invited guests infiltrated a Zoom video chat designed to be an online worship service. The church tried to manage guests in the chat, but quickly became overwhelmed.

"They shared some racist remarks, some unfortunate homophobic remarks," said Rev. Darrell Hamilton of First Baptist Church of Jamaica Plain.

This action by meeting hackers is being called "Zoom-Bombing". Two schools have reported similar incidents as well. The FBI is concerned hackers are more than a disruption, but could expose those in the chat, even e-learning students, to adult content and lewd behavior.

"Someone who wants to see everyone's reaction to them being in there, but there is also a security risk in regards to the information that can be recorded by an intruder," said FBI Special Agent Doug Domin.

Colorado Springs cyber expert Thomas Russell works for the National Cybersecurity Center and says these hackers can be stopped.

"It's not sophisticated to steal a link and come into a meeting but with the proper precautions teachers and church groups or any other type of group that is not used to doing something like this, they can combat the effects of it," said Russell.

The best advice is to password protect your meetings, even use advanced settings with a waiting room to make sure only people invited to the meetings actually get in.

At the end of the day we all need to be thinking about our cyber hygeine because our email can be hacked too.

Russell also says hackers will try to send us malware to monitor our webcams.

"I have a little piece of plastic that I have on my camera computer that when I'm not talking all I do is simply close that," said Russell. "Your camera should always, always, 100-percent of the time be covered when you aren't using the camera."

Russel says it's important to remember this technology is great and he believes users are more aware and safer than ever before.

The FBI is urging cyber conference users to report hackers and any direct personal threats to the bureau's crime complaint center.

"We are deeply upset to hear about the incidents involving this type of attack. We take the security of Zoom meetings seriously and in order to prevent such incidents from occurring, we strongly encourage users to arrange their settings so that only hosts can share their screens," a Zoom spokesperson said.

For a guide to best practices from Zoom, click here.