What Is Zoombombing?

Zoom is a popular videoconferencing app that allows people to connect virtually. It is used by individuals, companies, schools, places of worship, and more. A meeting is started by one individual (the host) sharing a link with those they are seeking to talk to. However, some uninvited guests have found ways to get the link and join the meeting. These people are known as zoombombers, and when they crash a Zoom meeting, their actions are called zoombombing.

In some cases, a zoombomber might simply sit in on a business meeting and hear privileged information.

But other instances can involve more disruptive acts, such as:

  • Sharing pornographic or shocking images,
  • Using racial slurs or hateful language,
  • Threatening participants, or
  • Screaming and yelling

Additionally, depending on the settings the host configured (or failed to configure), some zoombombers may be able to spread malware through the system, potentially harming user’s computers and other electronic devices.

Why Is Zoombombing Increasing?

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused several state governments, Ohio’s included, to enact stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the disease. Many of the orders prohibit people from engaging in non-essential travel, gathering in large groups, eating together in restaurants, and going to the movies, among other things. As a result, various companies have had to enact work-from-home policies, and schools have started conducting classes online.

Millions of people across the country and the globe have turned to Zoom to maintain a semblance of a social life, keep their businesses functioning, and stay on track with their education. But as legitimate uses for Zoom have increased, so have instances in zoombombing. The FBI has received numerous reports of zoombombing, as more and more people have started using the app, and others like it.

Why Does Zoombombing Occur?

When a meeting is initiated on Zoom, it’s usually done so using the default settings. Zoombombing likely occurs because the host has not changed the settings, and their meeting is open to anyone who might have a link. Because the app allows many people to get together virtually at one time, the meeting link must be sent out to all the participants. Some hosts have posted their links on public forums, such as Twitter, and an uninvited guest doing a simple search can find the link and join the meeting.

Instances of zoombombing can be prevented by the host taken certain precautions, such as using the “waiting room” function, which authorizes them to let guests into the meeting rather than allowing anybody to join right away. Hosts can also set up passwords that must be entered before someone can join.

Is Zoombombing a Crime?

Although there have been several reports of zoombombing, joining a videoconference uninvited has not been charged as an offense. However, the underlying actions could be prosecuted as state or federal crimes.

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