Chicago alderman's Zoom meeting hacked, porn shown; FBI warns about video chat hijacking

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As millions of Americans work, study and socialize at home, Zoom has played a huge role in keeping people connected. But the FBI says Zoom hijacking, or Zoom bombing, could cause uninvited guests and images to invade your next meeting.

Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez, who represents the city's 25th Ward, said he was hosting a video conference about the COVID-19 crisis when it was somehow hacked.

He was discussing the pandemic with community leaders when out of nowhere he said an unfamiliar voice shouted "No one cares!" and seconds later pornographic images appeared on the screen of his Zoom video chat.

"So, I was obviously a little surprised that this would happen during the time of a crisis," he said.

And it has happened to other Zoom users as well. The FBI said it has received multiple reports of conferences being disrupted by intruders making lewd comments and even displaying pornographic images.

"With so many people shifting to work from home and schools adopting e-learning, there was a need for a cost-effective way to hold online meetings," said cybersecurity expert Nikolai Vargas.

Vargas said he isn't surprised to learn that hackers have found a way to exploit this popular video service. From virtual happy hours to critical business meetings, millions of people across the world are using Zoom to connect from afar. But Vargas said if certain security measures aren't in place, you're vulnerable.

"Anyone who has a link to your Zoom meeting can join," he said.

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan said it all boils down to understanding the platform's security features.

"First of all, you have to set up a meeting password," he said. "I think it's pretty secure."

A statement from Zoom said in part, "We take the security of Zoom meetings seriously and we are deeply upset to hear about the incidents involving this type of attack..."

Zoom said for those hosting large, public group meetings, "the platform strongly encourages hosts to review their settings and confirm that only the host can share their screen."

For those hosting private meetings, Zoom said password protections are on by default, and recommends that users keep those protections on to prevent uninvited users from joining.

As people continue to find ways to stay connected during the COVID-19 crisis, it appears hackers are here to make things more challenging.

"It's a shame that there are individuals out there who are hijacking calls during the time of an emergency," said Ald. Sigcho-Lopez.

If you have been the victim of Zoom hacking, the FBI and Zoom would like you to report the incident.

FULL STATEMENT FROM ZOOM

"We take the security of Zoom meetings seriously and we are deeply upset to hear about the incidents involving this type of attack. For those hosting large, public group meetings, we strongly encourage hosts to review their settings and confirm that only the host can share their screen. For those hosting private meetings, password protections are on by default and we recommend that users keep those protections on to prevent uninvited users from joining. We encourage users to report any incidents of this kind directly to https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/requests/new so we can take appropriate action."

HELPFUL LINKS

Zoom blog on how to prevent uninvited guests in meetings
Zoom blog on best practices for virtual classroom use
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