Researchers have published a detailed look into what makes miscreants invade people's Zoom calls and other video-conferencing meetings – and found the vast majority are inside jobs. Unique per-person access codes could end the trolling.
A paper by eggheads at Binghamton University and Boston University in the United States examines the process that leads up to jerks ruining video chats, and finds that, by and large, they do not involve any sophisticated hacking. Rather, most meetings are disrupted by people who already have access to the meetings, and give all the necessary login info to miscreants and other associates.
This makes sense when you consider that more meetings require passwords or passcodes, to avoid these sorts of hijackings, thus making rogue participants, particularly in a classroom setting, a more common threat.
"Our findings indicate that the vast majority of calls for zoombombing are not made by attackers stumbling upon meeting invitations or bruteforcing their meeting ID, but rather by insiders who have legitimate access to these meetings, particularly students in high school and college classes," the researchers said. "This has important security implications, because it makes common protections against zoombombing, such as password protection, ineffective."
Studying meetings across ten different services and observing troll activity on both Twitter and 4Chan, the team was able to create a general framework for how trolls plan to disrupt meetings. More often than not, they say, it was someone inside the meeting group – a disruptive student wanting to derail a class session, for example – that gives the login details to other trolls who then invade the meeting and cause havoc.
In 70 per cent of zoombombing requests on 4chan, and 82 per cent on Twitter, all the info needed to flood a meeting and hijack it were posted directly online. Yes, there are tools for managing and vetting those on a call – such as using virtual lobby rooms – but that takes time to moderate and also some savvy. One low-tech solution would be to assign unique per-person IDs and passcodes so that credential reuse can be easily spotted and banned in one go.
"To protect against the threat, we encourage online meeting services to allow hosts to create unique meeting links for each participant, although we acknowledge that this has usability implications and might not always be feasible," the team wrote.
Meanwhile, in Houston, Texas
A 19-year-old man is on the receiving end of felony charges after allegedly making a bomb threat during a University of Houston Zoom class.
Ibraheem Ahmed Al Bayati is said to have barged in on a September 2 meeting of a university class and claimed over video chat the school would be bombed "in a few days".
Further complicating matters, Al Bayati also bragged to friends about being an ISIS recruiter, and helped others make pledges to the terrorist group, it is claimed.
He now faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. ®