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Working From Home During Virus? Beware of 'Zoombombs'

FBI warns that hackers are 'hijacking' videoconferencing app
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2020 12:27 PM CDT

(Newser) – As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, people stuck at home have taken to using videoconferencing apps to hold work meetings and chat with family and friends. One such app that's become ubiquitous: Zoom, founded by Cisco engineer Eric Yuan. But be careful before you log in for that virtual happy hour: The FBI is now warning users of the app that hackers are "hijacking" it, citing two recent incidents in Massachusetts. And the interruptions aren't merely annoying disruptions: Brad Garrett, an ex-FBI agent, says that Zoom has also become a ripe target for cybercriminals, who often want to steal corporate proprietary data, as well as personal info on individuals. "As more schools and businesses work remotely, this creates an ideal environment for cyber thieves," he tells ABC News. More on "Zoombombing" and other related issues from around the internet:

  • Recode details the "lax security" that's led to Zoom's current dilemma, including a workaround that allowed hackers to generate ID numbers to allow them to join meetings they weren't invited to. "The fact that it is so easy for anyone to join and then disrupt a public Zoom meeting at all indicates that Zoom's developers didn't anticipate the ways those meetings could be disrupted in the first place—something that anyone who has used the internet before really should have foreseen," the site notes.

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  • Zoom hacking took an especially ugly turn at the University of Texas at Austin on Monday, where a group meeting hosted by an initiative that supports African American male students was taking place. The Austin American-Statesman notes that about halfway through the event, "unknown users" showed up and started yelling racial slurs, including the n-word. "Reprehensible," Greg Fenves, the university's president, said of the incident in a tweet.
  • At the University of Florida, another racist hack: WCJB reports that an online student government meeting on Tuesday was invaded by "racist messages, swastikas, pornography, and death threats," per a tweet by university President Kent Fuchs. "COVID-19 and hate will be defeated," Fuchs added, saying he has called for an investigation.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous hasn't escaped the trolling, either. Per Business Insider, hackers are busting into group meetings and harassing members, hurling misogynistic and anti-Semitic slurs, as well as taking jabs at recovering alcoholics' struggles. "Alcohol is soooo good," one intruder recently proclaimed.
  • New York's attorney general isn't messing around when it comes to Zoom. The New York Times reports that Letitia James' office sent a letter to the company Monday on its data privacy and security protocols, noting that there exists particular concern over vulnerabilities "that could enable malicious third parties to, among other things, gain surreptitious access to consumer webcams."
  • Who may be the biggest loser in this newfound obsession with Zoom and Houseparty, a similar video social network that's taking off: Microsoft's Skype, which the Verge notes is "missing out on this key mindshare moment."
(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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