Boom in Zoom comes with privacy concerns

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Zoom teleconferencing has become the new way many of us communicate, but it comes with some security issues that have federal officials taking notice.

Teachers use it, governments use it — even we here at News Channel 3 use it for interviews and meetings.

But it’s now become a hackers playground, with reports of intruders Zoom-bombing meetings, some even dropping in porn.

“There are a lot of different ways this Zoom-bombing or hacking is going on,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Dunavant, who spoke via Zoom.

He’s seen people eavesdropping, hate speech or hate crimes, and even people attempting to engage in sexual exploitation of children. Dunavant says it’s just a matter of time before the problems hit the Mid-South.

His office is working with the FBI to stop hackers and make the public aware.

“If there is an intrusion, we hope the host will be prepared to shut that down, kick that person out and to immediately report that to law enforcement,” he said.

The City of Memphis uses Zoom to make contact with the media and thereby the public. When we asked Mayor Jim Strickland about the security during the City’s Zoom conference Monday, he said his staff would reach out to us later.

“Of all the concerns we have during this pandemic, somebody hacking into this press conference is not my top 100, but I have heard your concerns and communications will reach out to you after this press conference,” he said.

His staff did get back with us, saying they are aware of the safety issues, which is why they have a different Zoom invite for each meeting.

Some teachers around the country are also using Zoom to reach their students as schools remain closed.

But Shelby County Schools tells us they suspended using Zoom last week because of security issues.

Dunavant says students and teachers can be vulnerable.

“We encourage people not to make their meeting or classroom public,” he said.

On its website, Zoom directs teachers to lock their virtual classroom so others can’t join, and enable the waiting room so participants have to be admitted.

Zoom has also made updates so the host is the only one who can share content.

Dunavant says the federal government is cracking down because this can be a federal crime.

“They are significant federal felonies with penalties up to 10 years in prison and significant fines,” he said.

The U.S. Attorney’s office has set up a coronavirus task force that is investigating crimes and fraud. If you have a tip you can call 901-747-4300 or go to www.ic3.gov.

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