Facing Another Pandemic: Cyber Attacks
The online meeting platform Zoom is not exactly renowned for its privacy protection, and it is becoming less of a safe space with the rise of cyber violence, which is particularly threatening for people of ethnicities other than Caucasians. The USA is facing another pandemic: cyber attacks.
Ever since the pandemic started, class and work dynamics have shifted towards an online setting, which could potentially be seen as a more flexible and accessible option as it saves everyone the burden of commuting. Nevertheless, it has taken a very unexpected turn and online meeting platforms have become a comfortable space for racists. All the violence directed towards Black and minority communities seems to only be getting worse. In one of our recent articles, we report the case of Jevin Hodge, where a stranger’s intrusion cast a pall over his mom’s birthday party and caused public outrage.
The term ‘Zoomboming’ has been coined to refer to improper access to meetings and it has gained popularity —and also generated fear— in the recent weeks. Zoom doesn’t require specific permissions for access to the basic level of the platform (free): only a web link is needed to access meetings through the unpaid portion of the paplatform. The main problem is that these links can be easily retrieved from the Google search engine, so it is relatively simple to access these meetings without having any connection with the participants.
Many racist cyber attacks have been disrupting sessions of all kinds —classes, meetings, dissertation defenses, conferences, and even personal chats. Universities and schools are reporting an increasing number of similar incidents, where hackers enter chat rooms and convey inappropriate content, such as verbal insults of a racist, sexist or pornographic nature.
Technology Is The New Threat
Ed.D. graduate Dennis Johnson was defending his doctoral dissertation when a hacker intruded the Skype meeting and started annotating the screen with sexual scribble and racist slurs. An associate professor in Arizona State University, Lance Gharavi experienced participants with fake screen names displaying in the chat of his meetings and writing comments of “vulgar, racist, misogynistic toilet humor”. Laurel Walzak. An assistant professor at Ryerson University, was talking about sports in an informal meeting when a few participants began to actively disrupt the chat with vulgar images or playing unwanted music.
Universities and schools are becoming highly concerned about such events becoming more and more common. Some professors and teachers may not be completely familiar with online platforms, and thus are left with an uneasy feeling of lack of control over what happens in the virtual room. All of this brings greater pressure to professionals in the education system, they are aware that this type of content can not only disrupt their classes, but can trigger students and can make them feel unsafe.
Attending classes, seminars or even working from online platforms is already challenging enough. For some people the lack of resources to access technology poses a difficulty; whilst others who can, have to sit in front of a screen for hours and try to focus.
These Zoombombings are interfering with people’s privacy rights and are humiliating. They clearly target and lashe out hatred at Black people.
Don’t we understand that this affects ALL of us? We cannot allow violence to take up more space in this society. The Black Lives Matter movement started this action on the streets and we need to take it to the net.
The ‘us’ versus ‘others’ dichotomy is not taking the country anywhere. The Land of the Free is now twisted with misinformation and lies, that are suffocating those who have driven the development and opportunities for the country.