UC Berkeley tightens security after Zoom ‘bombing’ incidents

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UC Berkeley has taken steps such as requiring meeting passcodes to counter Zoom bombings in online courses.

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Another reported incident of Zoom bombing, or an unwanted meeting disruption, occurred during a campus event in June, leading campus administration and Zoom to tighten security measures.

ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Nicole Anyanwu held an event June 21 that discussed expectations regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and academics for the fall semester. The event was interrupted by a Zoom bombing, during which an individual used racial slurs over audio and in the Zoom chat, according to Anyanwu. Only campus email accounts were allowed on the call, Anyanwu added.

“I felt terrible and was pretty upset by it, especially because I had invested my time over the summer to share information with the student body,” Anyanwu said in an email.

An investigation was launched into the incident after Anyanwu and other students contacted UC Berkeley’s Student Technology Services, according to Anyanwu.

This Zoom bombing was not an isolated incident. There have been 12 reports of Zoom misuse on campus, which are becoming increasingly prevalent as more meetings are conducted online, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.

Gilmore added that the campus condemns the “offensive and hateful” language used in the Zoom bombings and called the incidents “disturbing and disheartening.”

“We want to be clear that such hate has no place at UC Berkeley and we are committed to doing everything we can to prevent it,” Gilmore said in an email.

The ASUC worked with the Dean of Students office, other campus offices and information technology officials to provide resources for secure Zoom meetings, according to Gilmore.

A campuswide email sent July 17 informed students of Zoom upgrades, including required passcodes for new meetings and required sign-ins before joining a call, to help prevent interference.

“I urge the campus to tighten its policy in dealing with these sorts of issues to establish a clear pathway for disciplinary action for those involved,” Anyanwu said in the email.

Zoom itself has responded to meeting disruptions by providing information through blog posts, webinars and tweets to create more secure calls, according to a statement from the company.

The techniques Zoom has promoted to improve security include avoiding sharing meeting links on public platforms and reporting users who disrupt meetings, the statement added.

In addition to these precautions, Zoom updated default settings, including those that give users the ability to control screen sharing, lock meetings and remove participants, according to the statement.

“We have been deeply upset to hear about these types of incidents, and Zoom strongly condemns such behavior,” the announcement from Zoom stated.

Campus administration encourages the community to report Zoom bombings to campus, as well as UC Berkeley’s “Stop Hate” website and Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, according to Gilmore.

Contact Shylie Ati at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @shylieati.