Indiana Daily Student

5 ‘Zoombombings’ reported at IU this semester, past incidents involved porn, slurs

IU Bloomington has experienced five reported “Zoombombings” this semester and the university’s Information Security and Policy Team is investigating or has already investigated the incidents, IU spokesperson Chuck Carney said.

Zoombombing is when a random individual or individuals enters a public Zoom call and causes a disturbance, often by using the screen sharing and messaging function to share graphic or racist content.

Students responsible for a Zoom bombing would face consequences from the university and potentially from law enforcement, but when Zoombombers come from outside the university, law enforcement usually steps in to help track the hackers, Carney said. 

According to NPR, Zoombombings have become more common due to increased online interaction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several incidents at IU have involved racial slurs, porn and other disturbances. 

During the virtual involvement fair last semester, IU's chapter of the NAACP was Zoombombed  by hackers who said and wrote racist slurs, called out Black students by name and mocked the death of George Floyd.

At an IU Student Government town hall in spring 2020, another Zoombombing occurred where hackers screen shared porn and repeated racial slurs. 

The IU Muslim Student Association saw its call-out meeting Zoombombed when the Zoom chat filled with more than 100 written slurs IU MSA President Miriam Haque told the Indiana Daily Student in Septemeber of 2020. One person was in their underwear on camera MSA social chair Deena Horani told the IDS in September of 2020.

This semester, an IU Career Fair Prep Session was Zoombombed on Feb. 9 where hackers screen shared porn and wrote a racial slur on the shared slides. The incident is being investigated by IU’s Information Security and Policy Team.

Jenna Piva Laramie, IU Walter Center for Career Achievement senior career coach, was leading the prep session for undergraduate students planning on attending the Career Fair on Feb. 11 when the Zoom was hacked.

“I want to know why,” Laramie said. “What did they get from doing that?”

Laramie said she allowed students to have the option to share their screen in case they wanted to show a job description or some other information that would help them prepare for the career fair. Instead, hackers used that screen sharing capability to take over the Zoom, she said.

Laramie said she ended the virtual session because the amount of hackers who entered the room made it too difficult to individually remove each of them from the session. After the Zoombombing, she was able to reopen the session and finish the presentation with a few students.

“I was just thinking how bad I felt for the students who had taken the time to come into this webinar,” Laramie said.

Laramie sent an email to students soon after the event saying the incident was being reported and investigated. Carney confirmed the investigation is taking place.

Sophie Todd, an IU junior and peer coach for the Walter Center for Career Achievement, was leading the event with Laramie during the incident. She said Laramie reached out to her after to check on her along with other advisors. 

“The next morning I know other staff members expressed their concern and surprise at what had happened too and were all super supportive,” Todd said.

She said this was not her first time dealing with a Zoombombing — she experienced one in spring 2020.

Carney said an investigation begins after a Zoombomb is reported to the Information Security and Policy team. Law enforcement may be involved, especially when it is more difficult to track hackers from outside the university, he said. 

“We’ve been able to minimize these things, but when they do happen, they’re serious and they are things that can be quite damaging to people,” Carney said. “We want to make sure we provide the tools and provide the support for our instructors and our students to manage these things.”

Carney said Zoom security settings, including waiting rooms and meeting ID certification, are good resources for securing a Zoom session. However, it can be more difficult to secure a Zoom call for a larger group.

“You want to try to get the balance between having openness but also safety and keeping everyone safe,” Carney said.

If a student is responsible for the Zoombombing, Carney said they would be held liable under IU’s Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct and could face expulsion. 

He said hate speech during a Zoom is looked at no differently than hate speech in the classroom.

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