In the new age of COVID-19 and virtual everything, a popular video conferencing platform has been identified by the FBI as a landing place for hackers to post child sexual abuse material to unsuspecting meeting users.
What is Zoom?
Zoom is a video and audio-conferencing platform available to any geographical location in the world. They have several plans to choose from to access their service. The Basic Plan is free and can handle up to 100 individuals in a meeting for up to 40 minutes. Zoom’s paid services provide for longer meeting times, up to 1,000 individuals, and more flexibility. All a user needs to set up an account is an electronic device (PC, Laptop, Phone or Tablet) that has camera and microphone capabilities.
The platform has become one of the most popular sites since virtual meetings became a necessity amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since growing so big, so fast, it has repeatedly been called out for lax security measures that have led to “Zoombombing” – an incident where a random user can drop pornographic, violent, racist, or inappropriate comments on the screen of a video conference. While the company has repeatedly addressed and updated its software due to these concerns, when a child sexual abuse video showed up in early May during a call meant for 60 children participating in a virtual fitness class, the FBI became concerned.
What The FBI Has Found
During the last few months, the FBI has received more than 195 reports of incidents throughout the United States and in other countries in which a Zoom participant was able to broadcast a video depicting child sexual abuse material (CSAM). The FBI considers this activity to be a violent crime, as every time child sexual abuse material is viewed, the depicted child is re-victimized. Furthermore, anyone who inadvertently sees child sexual abuse material depicted during a virtual event is potentially a victim as well.
In order to prosecute against these cases, the FBI is asking for the public’s help. Users are encouraged to contact the FBI when:
- Meeting leaders have witnessed child sexual abuse material appearing during their meeting. They are asked not to delete or destroy their computer logs without contacting the FBI first.
- An individual suspects they are a victim of child sexual abuse material broadcast during a Zoom meeting event.
- An individual participated in a Zoom Meeting and recorded the child sexual abuse material being shown.
- An individual is aware of someone hacking in to Zoom Meetings for the purpose of posting child sexual abuse material.
Regarding this matter, the FBI can be contacted at: 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324) or anonymously online at tips.fbi.gov.
How To Protect A Zoom Meeting
Both Zoom and the FBI encourage users to practice safe security measures that have been put in place to protect against Zoombombing. These safeguards include:
- Never allow Zoom Meetings to be public. There are two settings that can be used to make a meeting private: require a password to enter the meeting and/or have meeting goers wait in a “waiting room” until the meeting host can identify them and give them access to the meeting.
- Never share a meeting password on a public social media post.
- Only authorize the meeting host to use the screen sharing feature.
By being vigilant in using the Zoom meeting platform, users can be confident knowing that their meeting can be used for what it is intended to do while safeguarding children from threats of unwelcome child sexual abuse material showing up during the meeting.