Taking a closer look at Zoom and ‘zoombombing’

Big issues arise from popular quarantine tool used by schools and businesses, Zoom.

With the coronavirus still running the streets and all of us are stuck to the confines of our homes, Zoom has become a big part of many people’s lives. But do you really know the extent of the app you are using?

One feature that many people should be aware of, especially students, is the ability for whoever is hosting to see if anyone in the call does not have the window or app in focus. This feature is called attention tracking. So if you are on a Zoom call with your teacher and you switch to a word document for notes, or let’s be honest switch tabs to peruse Twitter, for more than 30 seconds then the host will be alerted.

You may also be recorded without your knowledge. Not only can people use third party screen recording apps to capture anyone or anything being said in the call, but Zoom itself offers a feature to record video and sound to any of its users.

For people using Zoom for free the file will be saved to a storage service, like your Google Drive. However, if you are a paid subscriber to Zoom then they offer a cloud service to store any and all recordings you take. Anything uploaded to the cloud can be accessed by anyone who has a paid subscription to Zoom as well. The screen recording function is not offered on the mobile versions of Zoom though.

With the massive wave of attention brought to the app, some safety and privacy issues have been found with the app. These flaws in Zoom allow hackers to abuse the site. People have found ways to snoop in on calls and even gain access to users’ webcams.

With the easily accessible zoom conferences we have seen the term “zoombombing” arise. Zoombombing is when someone uninvited or with no connection to the call joins a zoom call and acts in a way to purposely disrupt the meeting. Since Zoom’s default call settings make every call public or if the link is shared publicly on social media, pretty much anyone can join.

NBC reported on a serious case of Zoombombing in which a professor was reading a children’s book to a call made up of around 40 kids. In the middle of the call a troll who was described as a “chubby white man in a thong” joined and started yelling racial slurs and expletives including the n-word.

Locally, a Saddleback College student Maddie Elizando ran into a Zoombomber in her anthropology class.

“We were all just sitting in the zoom call when all of a sudden some dude join super late,” said Elizando. “Then he started blasting a Spongebob song super loud, I think the bass was boosted or something. Not gonna lie I thought it was pretty funny.”