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Coronavirus-related social distancing measures have given Zoom, a video conferencing platform known for its ease of use but not necessarily strong security or privacy, a big boost. Internet trolls and other troublemakers responded with "zoom bombing": they participated in zoom meetings without being asked and disrupted them. Zoombomber has exposed schoolchildren and called racial insults.
In a statement released on Friday, Michigan prosecutors warned the public that zoom bombing is not a harmless prank. It is a crime.
"Hackers disrupt conferences and online classrooms with pornographic and / or hate images and threatening language," wrote the US Attorney General for the Eastern District of Michigan. "Anyone hacking into a conference call can be charged with state or federal crime."
Possible charges include "disrupting a public gathering, hacking into the computer, using a computer to commit a crime, hate crime, fraud, or communicating threats," the prosecutors warn. All of these charges may involve fines and prison terms, the authorities said.
The exact fees that a zoom bomber is exposed to will likely depend on how it got access to a zoom meeting and what it did to disturb it. For example, some zoom reviews are publicly advertised, which may make it difficult to create a computer intrusion charge stick. But someone could still be charged with things that they said or did to disrupt the meeting after attending.
"You think zoom bombing is funny? Let's see how fun it is after you've been arrested, ”said Matthew Schneider, a US attorney in Michigan, in Friday's press release. "If you interfere with a conference call or public meeting in Michigan, federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies may knock on your door."
In a recent story, Ars Technica security reporter Dan Goodin explained how zoom users can protect themselves from zoom bombing attacks. He found that meetings can be password-protected and advised against announcing credentials on social media or other public channels.
Goodin notes that hosts can disable Zoom's "join before host" setting to ensure that the host has control over a meeting from the start. Zoom also has a "waiting room" feature that allows a host to review attendees before they can join the meeting.