FBI warns of hackers breaking into virtual meetings, school


BOSTON (WPRI) — With a majority of people turning to technology for school, work or to stay in touch with loved ones due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FBI is warning about those who may try to take advantage of the situation.

The warning is specifically about video conferencing platforms being hijacked, and the Boston FBI Division reported disturbing incidents at two Massachusetts Schools with teleconferencing software Zoom.

In March, one high school reported that while a teacher was instructing online, an unidentified individual logged in, yelled profanity and shouted the teacher’s home address in the middle of the class.

A second incident involved a different school in Massachusetts where a person displaying swastika tattoos accessed a school meeting.

The FBI noted they have reports of these incidents occurring nationwide, including some where were disrupted by pornographic images.

“This isn’t really on the school, it’s not really on the teachers or on the educator,” tech expert Tom Jelneck said. “It’s on bad guys trying to figure out how to get into stuff and raise heck.”

The FBI is now encouraging you to make video meetings private and if you are the host of the meeting, to only share the video link with people you know; don’t share the link on social media.

A spokesperson for Zoom sent the following statement to Eyewitness News:

“We are deeply upset to hear about the incidents involving this type of attack and we strongly condemn such behavior. We have been actively educating our users on how they can protect their meetings and help prevent incidents of harassment. Starting on March 20th, we’ve published a series of blogs to clarify the protective features – like waiting rooms, passwords, muting controls and limiting screen sharing – that can be put in place. We have also been offering trainings and tutorials, as well as free interactive daily webinars, and we’ve been proactively sending these resources to our users so that they can better understand their own account features and how to best use the platform. We’re also listening to our community of users to help us evolve our approach – for example, we recently changed the default settings for education users to enable waiting rooms by default and ensure teachers by default are the only ones who can share content in class. Finally, we encourage users to report any incidents of this kind directly to https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/requests/new so we can take appropriate action.”

A spokesperson for Zoom says there is a way for users to prevent uninvited guests from joining meetings, plus additional security features are already set up on the platform.

If you were a victim of teleconference hijacking or any cyber-crime, you should report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.

If you receive a specific threat during a teleconference, you should report it to tips.fbi.gov or call the FBI Boston Division at (857) 386-2000.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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