FBI Warns of 'Zoom-Bombing,' Where Hackers Hijack Video Conferences After Two Schools Affected

The FBI has warned the public of the potential for "Zoom-bombing," after two schools saw their online classes get hijacked on the popular video conferencing app Zoom.

Zoom has seen a massive increase in users since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a large number of people to stay home and turn to video meetings for work, school or social interactions. Zoom-bombing, the practice of unwanted guests intruding on video meetings for malicious purposes, is also said to have significantly increased during the pandemic.

The FBI's Boston field office issued a press release Monday saying that the agency "has received multiple reports of conferences being disrupted by pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language."

"As individuals continue the transition to online lessons and meetings, the FBI recommends exercising due diligence and caution in your cybersecurity efforts," the press release says.

The agency said two different online classrooms in Massachusetts were targeted in recent incidents. A high school class was interrupted by an unidentified person who "yelled a profanity and then shouted the teacher's home address in the middle of instruction."

A second class was said to have been targeted by another unidentified individual who appeared on video while displaying their swastika tattoos.

Zoom headquarters
Zoom Video Communications headquarters in San Jose, California on March 28, 2020. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty

Zoom has also recently been linked to a number of "suspicious" websites that are said to use the company's name in an attempt to trick people into clicking potentially dangerous links.

Steps that the FBI recommends taking to avoid Zoom-bombing include keeping video conferences private rather than public, along with refraining from openly posting links to the conferences on social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook.

The FBI's warnings come more than a week after Zoom published a blog post that serves as a guide on avoiding any unwelcome intrusions.

Tips shared by the company include setting the app's screen sharing feature to "only host" before beginning a session. Locking meetings so that no new participants can join, muting participants and disabling file transfer are also suggested as ways to block a malicious person from potentially hijacking or disrupting meetings.

Although taking the precautions recommended by Zoom and the FBI are likely stop a majority of unwanted incidents, video conferencing over the internet remains vulnerable to other forms of attack. Conferences could be taken over entirely if the host's password were hacked, for instance.

Another vulnerability uncovered in 2019 reportedly could have allowed hackers to take control of the webcams of users and then spy on them even when the app was not in use, although the company is said to have fixed the issue since then.

Newsweek reached out to Zoom for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.