Block “zoom bombing” in online college courses |

To prevent Zoom bombings from invading online college courses, instructors can require passwords for each session, protect meeting URLs, and restrict screen sharing. (Gabriel Benois/Unsplash)

Online university courses are suddenly overrun with “zoom bombing”, an ugly new activity in which hackers disrupt virtual meetings to display pornography, racism and other disturbing images.

Last week, three Zoom sessions at the University of Missouri were hacked by individuals “using hateful, discriminatory, and objectionable language,” UM System President Mun Choi told the campus community, according to The Kansas City Star.

A film class at Santa Barbara Community College was disrupted when hackers took over the instructor’s screen to display pornography and footage of the 9/11 attacks, Noozwhawk reported.

And the FBI issued a warning about Zoom bombers after the K-12 schools were hacked last week, CBS Boston reported.

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The pornographic, racist and threatening actions of the Zoom Bombers appear to be a “organized effortAmong right-wing hate groups and other similar dangerous actors, Leah Plunkett, associate professor at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, said University Affairs.

At least two state attorneys general are currently investigating Zoom’s privacy practices to fully understand how break-ins occur during some K-12 schools and other institutions ban Zoom to protect students, says Plunkett.

To block attacks, instructors must:

  • Set a password for each Zoom session.
  • Use meeting settings to restrict screen sharing to anyone other than the instructor hosting the meeting.
  • Disable video for attendees at the entrance.
  • Lock the meeting right after it starts to ensure that only authorized participants come and stay.

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More zoom bombing defenses

After the Zoom attack in Massachusetts, the FBI office in Boston published some tips for blocking hackers. He recommended:

  • Don’t make meetings public by requiring a password or using the waiting room feature to control guest admission.
  • Don’t share a link to a teleconference or classroom on publicly available social media posts. Provide the link directly to invited attendees.
  • Make sure users are using the updated version of dial-up/meeting applications.

The Santa Barbara Community College has also released a comprehensive set of guidelines on how to prevent Zoom meetings from being bombarded by Zoom trolls. The list covers the best way to set up and schedule meetings, manage sessions, and regain control during a Zoom bombardment.

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