Beware of 'Zoom-bombers': online organisers urged to step up security

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An online poetry organiser is urging others to beware of the growing problem of ‘Zoom-bomber’ trolls disrupting events. The Stay-at-Home! online Literary Festival is warning that organisers should email participation links to attendees, rather than posting them on social media.

This week the online launch of Magma poetry magazine’s latest issue was disrupted by “racist and anti-Semitic trolls” at the start of the readings. One of the issue’s editors, Nathalie Teitler, said on Twitter: “Huge thanks to all the poets who read beautifully at tonight's @magmapoetry Resistencia Latinx launch. I am so sorry for the stress and upset caused by the racist and anti-Semitic trolls at the beginning of the readings.”

Magma had posted the log-in details for the event on Wednesday on Twitter. In the conversation that followed, one user posted a link to a US security guide to combating ‘Zoom-bombers’. .

The advice begins: " ‘Zoom-bombing’ " happens when a non-secured meeting ID is shared or guessed and an uninvited anonymous attendee connects and eavesdrops or sometimes shares inappropriate content.” The advice includes tips on how to lock a meeting, and how to remove an unwelcome participant.

Magma said after the meeting: “We live and learn in this new environment of sharing our work and fortunately poetry triumphed.”

Poet and novelist Carolyn Jess-Cooke, organiser of the Stay-at-Home literary festival, said the festival had also experienced problems, and added that trolls “tend to zoom-bomb in packs. I’m hoping Zoom will step up their host controls to make Zoom-bombing a distant memory, but right now it is prevalent and very distressing for participants.”

She told Write Out Loud that Zoom-bombing was "very prevalent", and cited a Scottish swim event that was recently disrupted. "But I only learned of its prevalence once I'd been affected by it ... we had trolls access the screen-share facility to share pornographic content and unmute their mics to shout racist slurs. Both are very invasive and disturbing, and I did manage to work out a way to prevent these, but still had a couple of incidents where trolls used the chat box and their own camera to infiltrate racist and pornograpic content to our sessions."

Her detailed advice to event organisers is: 

1)  Set up a waiting room.  

2)  Make screen share ‘host only’. "Trolls like to splay porn all over the screens of your unsuspecting audience. If you have a guest who needs to screen share, make them a co-host."

3)  If you don’t mute your audience, trolls can and will shout racist slurs

4)  Monitor your chat box. If you’ve implemented 1-3, well done, but trolls will still use the chat box to post pornographic and racist comments. This one is hard to avoid - you need the chat box - but (a) it is less disruptive than porn splashed across your screen via screen share or racist shouts, and (b) if you’ve got your waiting room set up you can place the trolls back in there and then remove them altogether. 

5) Disable your participants ability to rename themselves.

Carolyn added: "I would imagine any platform can be accessed by trolls, as long as they can click on the link. I do think Zoom has a duty of care and that they are neglecting to properly support users, so in lieu of this failure we need to get word out."


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Dominic James

Sat 25th Apr 2020 10:48

That's a very timely warning Greg and Team, many thanks.

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