Thursday, October 1, 2020
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Zoom-Bombing On The Rise

Business meetings, class lectures and conference calls using Zoom have recently begun to fall victim to a new form of disruption called “Zoom-bombing” at an increased rate.

This technique involves an individual, or group of individuals, crashing a Zoom meeting and bombarding the participants with offensive and disruptive language, or even pornographic or disturbing content.

“It’s a weird mix of frustrating and funny,” said Gabriel Lopez, a recent victim of a bombing during a lecture. “On one hand you are trying to learn and it’s annoying, and on the other it kind of makes me laugh. I mean, what kind of person has that much free time on their hands.”

Lopez claims he was in a class where multiple people bombed the Zoom lecture with offensive language and targeted racial slurs.

With the implementation of the COVID-19-related transition to an online teaching model for most universities, Zoom meetings have increased. In the last three months, Zoom has added over 2.2 million new users, more than all of 2019. Classes normally taught in person have transitioned to an online synchronous lecture model. 

Students can join these lectures using a link sent to their email or through a nine-digit meeting ID that allows them to access the specific meeting. Many of these meetings don’t require passwords, anyone with the corresponding meeting ID or access to the link can join.

According to Sarkis Daglian, Director of Client Services for the Office of Information technology, only one officially reported occurrence has happened at UCI. Daglian said that it happened during a townhall and there have been no instances during classes. However, students have said on social media zoom-bombing has taken place during classes. 

Daglian sent a campuswide email on April 1 with recommendations about how to keep Zoom meetings secure. 

Daglian said that meeting IDs should not be shared publicly to prevent non-attendees from getting access and encouraged the UCI community to use passwords — which should be shared privately — and the waiting room feature for hosts to control who can join meetings. Daglian also said that “it is extremely important to learn how to manage participants in a meeting,” and also advised that users set up privacy controls.

“We are looking that the Student Code of Ethics can be upheld online,” Daglian said. “Just because you are in Zoom, if you harass, we are treating it the same way as in person.”

Ian Michael Anzlowar is a Staff Writer. He can be reached at ianzlowa@uci.edu