Expert offers tips to avoid being 'Zoom bombed:' 'Intention is just to mess with people'

MILWAUKEE -- A virtual news conference hosted by Milwaukee election officials on Sunday, April 12 was "Zoom bombed" -- a term used to describe the moment when a malicious actor hijacks a Zoom call.

During Sunday's call with election officials, an ISIS propaganda video began to play. Moments later, pornographic images as well as racial slurs flooded the screen. The call went on for several more minutes before being shut down.

"From what I think, the intention is just to mess with people. To kind of -- be mean," said Maya Levine of Check Point Software Technologies.

Levine is a security engineer -- and said malicious attacks like that are far too common.

Maya Levine

"Why this one is unique, or a little bit more difficult from a security standpoint, is because this was a public meeting meant and intended to be a forum space," Levine said.

But staying safe, even in a digital forum, is not impossible. If you pay for Zoom, you have secure options.

"Zoom has a featured called a webinar...and it makes it so that only the presenters are able to share their screen, to present the content," Levine said.

For the free users, you too have tools to stay safe.

"You still have the ability to make sure that nobody else can share their screen, can speak, unmute themselves, all of these options are under manage participants," Levine said.

Keeping your software is also a great way to keep meetings from being "Zoom bombed."

During a news conference, the executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission apologized for what happened on Sunday.

Zoom statement

“We have been deeply upset to hear about these types of incidents. Zoom strongly condemns such behavior and recently updated several features to help our users more easily protect their meetings. We have enabled meeting passwords and virtual waiting rooms by default for users enrolled in our K-12 program, as well as our Free Basic and Single Pro users. For users enrolled in our K-12 program, we have also updated the default screen share settings to ensure teachers are the only ones who can share content in class. For all users, we have made the Zoom Meeting ID less visible to help prevent unintended sharing, and we have added a new Security icon to the Zoom meeting controls for all hosts to help them quickly access in-meeting security features, including the ability to remove participants and lock meetings, among other actions. Through our offering of training, tutorials and webinars, including our CEO Eric Yuan's weekly privacy and security webinar, Zoom is continuing to engage with all of our users on how they can best use Zoom and protect their meetings​. ​We encourage users to report any incidents of this kind either to Zoom so we can take appropriate action​ or directly to law enforcement authorities."