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UNT should protect students from Zoombombing

UNT should protect students from Zoombombing

UNT should protect students from Zoombombing
April 20
14:52 2020

“Zoombombing” has taken the academic and business world by storm for the past month and the term has already gained infamy for its reign of terror. “Zoombombing” refers to a method of trolling by interrupting conference calls or classroom sessions by showing violent or pornographic images on the app, Zoom. Zoom has gained mainstream attention for being the app teachers use to communicate with their students and keep them updated with lectures and assignments since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

UNT is one of 90,000 schools in 20 different countries to use the program, so this poses a unique problem for UNT students. Can UNT protect its students from Zoombombing? I feel it’s not a question of should they but how. Zoom meetings require a code for invited guests to join a meeting. For UNT students to join sessions, they go to Zoom on Canvas under their respective course and are able to join automatically. So how do hackers find their way into private sessions?

Zoom was self-admittedly designed to cater to enterprise customers and didn’t anticipate their program to be used for people to use it for work, school and for socializing from home. This fact gave leeway for problems they didn’t expect to occur. Hackers are able to join by using two bugs that primarily affect Apple Mac users. One bug is when a hacker to hijacks a victim’s device and the other one gives the hacker the ability to hijack a victim’s microphone and webcam. Due to recent mishaps, Zoom has already delivered a guide that states how one can keep uninvited guests out but I feel UNT should have already been aware of the problems Zoom provided.

This isn’t exactly hard news, issues of hijacked webcams and users access rights have been reported to be violated in the past. Though Zoom is stepping up on its part to fix the issue, this program was admittedly not meant to be a safe space for students to interact with one another, so why did UNT go with this program if it wasn’t safe to begin with? Though it’s hard to empathize with UNT higher-ups since we don’t know the panic that must’ve hit them during the week classes were cancelled due to COVID-19, but you can’t hit the panic button and place your trust in a program as vulnerable as Zoom.

How can UNT protect students from Zoombombing? Specifically, it should implement some suggestions from Zoom’s safety guide such as disabling private chat, setting up your own two-factor authentication and further locking the meeting “room” after a specific time. Another way to prevent Zoombombing is to use alternative apps such as Skype, Google Hangouts and Go Live video calls with Discord.

No one could have anticipated this kind of problem so it would be unfair to shift the entire blame onto UNT for the faults of this program. Perhaps it was the stress of a collapsing system which forced UNT to follow everyone else, but you can’t risk the well-being of your students and the computers they need to use for school and their personal lives. As an institution, UNT must take the well-being of all students into consideration when making hasty decisions.

Featured Illustration: Isabel Balabuch

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Adrian Maldonado

Adrian Maldonado

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