Zoombombers are attacking people in emotional support group meetings
- April 2, 2020
- Posted by: Kerry Tomlinson, Archer News
- Categories: Archer News, Cyber Crime, Cyber Crime, Cyberattack, Cyberattack, Hacking, Posts with image
Unable to meet in person, many support groups are moving online.
But the same technology that allows people to unite without spreading COVID-19 can also allow in trolls who mock people searching for emotional help in a time of global crisis.
Now, growing numbers trolls are creating YouTube channels to celebrate their Zoombombing “victories” and rack up likes and subscribers.
It’s an online meeting for people in recovery, with more than one hundred in attendance, likely their only way to meet during the pandemic.
Suddenly, one ‘participant’ begins to spew a racist rant.
“I’ve been recovering for five months now from alcohol. And the one thing that really came out of it was my hatred for f—ing n—–s. I f—ing hate n—–s,” the voice said.
Horrified, people recoil, their faces showing anger, fear, distress.
A different voice joins in, laughing.
“I like to hang the n—–s in the back yard,” the second person says, clearly delighted with his cruel gag. “I also like to shoot up my school!”
This is the newest “sport” to fill YouTube channels — Zoombombing, not just business meeting for only classes, but people looking for online support for emotional and mental health issues, addiction and stress.
Many support organizations want to reach anyone who needs help, and that may make them more vulnerable to trolls.
In another video, Zoombombers attack an emotional support group for people going through mental distress, making a parody of their feelings about the pandemic.
“You know, toilet paper’s finished,” giggles the bomber. “I’ve had to use, like, old towels and McDonald’s tissues, ha-ha! Like, you know, it’s very upsetting.”
“Take your time,” a real participant says.
But it’s time for the bomber to turn things to the ridiculous, his troll friends erupting in laughter.
“I look out the window and see these things called ‘roadmen,’” the troll says, mocking other people’s fears. “A goal of mine would probably be to get fitter so I can, like, run away from roadmen.”
The trolls post their successful bombings on YouTube, earning new subscribers and likes by the day.
“Lmaoooooo 😂” writes one viewer.
“Nice vid. When’s your next Video?” asks another commenter.
“We posting daily! Don’t forget to subscribe,” the posters reply.
They are one of many groups gleefully trading Zoom disruption videos for attention during the crisis.
“*MADE IT ON THE NEWS*” proclaims one trolling group on YouTube.
Some commenters egg the groups on and ask to join in the game of bombing classes, business meetings and more.
“Omg these are addicting people please do more of these,” writes a viewer.
“Bro gimme the discord link to ur trolling server pls,” asks another, ready to join in.
The YouTube channels for the support group trolls do not provide contact information. But one channel describes the trolling as “just banter”.
Effects on Victims
“It’s truly unfortunate,” said a staff member with Unity Recovery, whose meeting was Zoombombed with racist language.
“That kind of video doesn’t serve any purpose,” he said to Archer News. “It’s not entertainment. It’s not funny.”
Some support organizations have stopped providing online meetings because they can’t figure out how to keep the trolls out, he said.
His staff has now taken steps to stop Zoom-bombers in their meetings and has created digital meeting safety guidelines to help.
There are still many online options for people needing recovery support during the pandemic, he added.
The bombers often look for meetings open the public, with no passwords or controls.
They hit an open meeting for a political campaign group in Fort Worth, Texas on Sunday.
The Lisa Welch for Congress group decided to hold an impromptu virtual gathering to as a dry run for bigger meetings and to connect after many days in isolation.
Organizers posted the details publicly on Facebook — which allowed the trolls to pounce.
“We wanted to have it open,” meeting organizer Kris Savage tool Archer News. “We now know that was not good.”
“Here to help”
The bombers joined the meeting under several names, including “Ben Dover”.
Savage removed them, but new problem participants continued to enter the meeting.
One troll posing as a woman named “Rebecca Downsy” pretended to have audio and video difficulties but shared her screen multiple times.
“It was a video of the rear end of someone naked, bouncing around in front of us, in front of our face,” Savage said.
Then a participant with the screen name ‘Zoom Audio Support’ announced he was there to help.
Zoom Audio Support
“You really are Zoom Audio Support, aren’t you?” asked Savage.
“Yes”, the trolls responded. “We’d like you to restart the iPad, as that will allow us to refresh the mainframe for you, which will allow us to stop individuals from joining.”
“You sound awfully nice,” Savage said. “You don’t sound like somebody that’s trying to mess us up. Okay, I’m going to turn the power button off.”
And she did, temporarily eliminating herself from the meeting, to the delight of the trolls.
“It’s embarrassing to even watch it,” Savage told Archer News later. “I’m just mortified at the stuff I said.”
YouTube & Zoom
YouTube and Zoom did not respond to questions from Archer News about the issue of Zoombombers attacking support groups.
The support groups in this story contacted YouTube and asked them to take down the videos.
YouTube removed the video with the violent, racist rant, but the other video remains as of the time of publication, gaining hundreds of likes and subscribers over the past few days.
Savage said the Zoombombing at her informal campaign meeting was a learning experience and she is glad they tried a small-scale meeting before moving on to a larger event.
But for the support groups?
“That’s horrible,” she said. “It’s really malicious. It’s not funny.”
“When you’re already struggling with stuff,” she added. “With that kind of group, it could be devastating.”
“There are people out there that do mean stuff and sometimes they pretend it’s funny,” Savage said. “I’m grateful I don’t get my kicks doing this kind of crap. I’m grateful that I’m not that kind of person.”
What to Do
Use controls to keep invaders out of your digital meetings, urges the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which released an alert on Monday.
The FBI recommends:
* Make digital meetings or classrooms private, not public. In Zoom, you can require a meeting password or use the waiting room feature and control the admittance of guests.
* Do not share a link to a teleconference or classroom on an unrestricted, publicly available social media post. Provide the link directly to specific people.
* Manage screen sharing options. In Zoom, change screen sharing to “Host Only.”
* Ensure users are using the updated version of remote access/meeting applications.
* Ensure that your organization’s telework policy or guide addresses requirements for physical and information security.
Zoom fixed the problem, Check Point said in January.
But KrebsOnSecurity reports that researchers are still able to get through.
Zoom has blog posts with more information, including Keeping uninvited guests out of your Zoom event and Best practices for securing your virtual classroom.
For example, some legitimate meeting participants — especially in digital classes — are giving their passwords and codes to trolls so they can disrupt the class.
You can set your meeting so that only authenticated users with approved email addresses can join.
Unauthenticated users will receive a message that says, “This meeting is for authorized attendees only.”
In its new digital meeting safety guidelines, Unity Recovery lays out mandatory Zoom settings for meeting organizers:
- Participants are muted upon entry to any Zoom meeting hosted by Unity Recovery.
- Participants’ video is turned off upon entry to any zoom meeting hosted by Unity Recovery.
- Participants are not able to join any Zoom meeting prior to the host.
- Participants are not allowed to screen share, file share, annotate, or share white boards.
- Participants removed for any reason are not permitted to rejoin the Zoom meeting.
In addition, Unity Recovery hosts follow these guidelines immediately after opening a Zoom meeting:
- Open the “manage participants” tab and ensure that the following settings under “more” have a check mark next to them:
—Mute Participants Upon Entry
- Open the “Manage Participants” tab and ensure that the following settings under “more” DO NOT have a check mark next to them:
—Allow Participants to Unmute Themselves
- Open the “Chat” tab and ensure that the following settings under the “. . .” menu have a check mark next to them:
—Allow participants to chat with HOST ONLY
- The primary host should provide all scheduled co-hosts and chat moderators the “cohost” permission by selecting their name and clicking on “Make Co-Host”.
Main image: Screen shot of support group meeting under attack by Zoombombers. Archer News has blurred the faces. Image: YouTube