Ever since classes and work meetings moved from IRL to the URL, users have been susceptible to incidents known as the “Zoom bomb” (Mayor Vico Sotto is no exception). This was the case for one student discussion at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, which was recently interrupted by clips of Adolf Hitler and Nazi propaganda.
In the middle of a Zoom discussion held by The Rhetoricians and Kulturang Ugnayan ng Kabataan Alay sa Bayan (KULAYAN-UPLB), one user named James Forrest entered the chat, interrupting the session by “rickrolling” the participants. While playing the infamous meme featuring Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” may seem like a harmless prank, it took a turn for the worse when the user proceeded to flash footage of Nazi propaganda.
KULAYAN’s online event was hosted on a public Zoom meeting, which was also streamed simultaneously on Facebook.
This isn’t the first time an incident like this occurred to a UPLB organization. On June 24, the College of Human Ecology Council of Student Leaders was interrupted by anonymous users yelling racist remarks and writing the “n-word” on the shared screen.
“Zoom bombing” remains a major privacy concern for online classes, with these cyberattacks interrupting school sessions across the globe, often with “nefarious” purposes. The Salt Lake Tribune reported an incident where an elementary school’s video meeting, with around 40 to 50 students, was interrupted when a user flashed pornographic images. On the other hand, one so-called hacker interrupted a class meeting by displaying their swastika tattoos.
One of the organizers of the KULAYAN meeting, Jael Apostol, says that online classes are susceptible to these kinds of attacks. “For a technologically disadvantaged society, scavenging off of what excess capital is being shipped to our markets and all that, and not having the ample knowledge of such attacks,” Apostol said to UPLB Perspective.
According to the International Association of Privacy Professionals, among the privacy problems that come with online learning are “the collection and potential use of students’ personal information” as well as using platforms that are not designed for students, leading schools to choose “less privacy-friendly” technologies.
Zoom announced that it will give end-to-end encryption to all users, promising better privacy controls and improved security. As part of its 90-day plan, the company has launched 100 new features to improve its service— including blocking potential Zoom bombers.
After the 90-day period, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan thinks there is more work to be done. “Privacy and security are ongoing priorities for Zoom, and this 90-day period—while fruitful—was just a first step.”
Recently, Google’s video conference app Google Meet has also addressed the issue of “Zoom” bombing in online classes, preventing users to join if they are not signed in.
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Screenshot from UPLB Perspective