On October 26, 2020, during an Academic Senate Ad Hoc Committee for Strategic Divestment and Reinvestment Investigation Town Hall meeting conducted over Zoom, an unknown group of individuals “zoom bombed” the meeting, using offensive sexual and racist videos, statements, and images in their Zoom video and audio feeds, and using racist hate speech in the text chat function, and in annotating the shared screen. The racist hate speech was directed at our Black community. The meeting was not password protected at the time, but instead was utilizing the “waiting room” function. Some of the “zoom bombers” had changed their zoom usernames to appear to be legitimate participants to gain access to the meeting. The meeting organizers ended the meeting about 30-40 seconds after the “bombing” began.
Similar incidents have occurred at Colleges and Universities throughout the country since late March 2020, when many institutions began using Zoom for online meetings and classes as part of their COVID-19 response plans.
What is being done
The incident was reported to the University’s Racist and Bias Incident Response Team, Information Security Office, University Police, and the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) were notified.
The Information Privacy Office conducted a review to determine if any University Community member’s UNID or credentials were compromised and found nothing to indicate that they were. Perpetrators of incidents like this are difficult to identify, especially in unsecure Zoom meetings, however, if any university community members are identified, the Office of the Dean of Students, Human Resources, or other appropriate administrator will contact them to discuss policies and relevant sanctions, and provide education about the impact of these messages.
What to do
The University of Utah Information Privacy Office and IT department have previously released information regarding additional steps that can be taken to secure virtual meetings conducted via Zoom, and it may be helpful to review them prior to scheduling your next Zoom event. Those previous communications can be found here: Security Best Practices When Using Zoom and Avoid Being Bombed, Keep Your Zoom Meetings Safe. Zoom has also published a blog post How to Keep Uninvited Guests Out of Your Zoom Event. Additionally, a story on helpful tips to secure Zoom meetings will be distributed in the upcoming November 2, 2020 edition of @TheU.
The U is committed to equity, diversity and inclusion
The University of Utah strongly condemns bias, discrimination, racism, bigotry and hate in the strongest possible terms and is no place for violence. We support fostering an inclusive campus and are committed to diversity. U administrators want to assure students, faculty and staff that they are dedicated to creating a safe, welcoming and equitable campus where we work together to engage, support and advance a living, learning and working environment that fosters values of respect, diversity, inclusivity and academic excellence.
President Ruth V. Watkins said in a message condemning racism that “The rhetoric used by these groups does not align with or reflect the University of Utah’s values. These cowardly, faceless and non-university sanctioned tactics are designed to disrupt and frighten individuals and communities, and to garner attention for an insidious ideology that has no place on our campus or in our community.”
Students, faculty, staff and visitors who believe they have been the target of bias, intolerance or discrimination may report an incident to the Office for Inclusive Excellence (bias and intolerance) or the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (sexual misconduct and discrimination).
Support and resources
Counseling and support services are available from several entities on campus:
- American Indian Resource Center: 801-581-7019
- Black Cultural Center: 801-213-1441
- Center for Student Wellness: (victim-survivor advocates, bystander intervention training): 801-581-7776
- Employee Assistance Program (staff): 801-587-9319 or 800-926-9619
- LGBT Resource Center: 801-587-7973
- Office for Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Title IX: 801-581-8365
- Office of the Dean of Students: 801-581-7066
- University Counseling Center (students only): 801-581-6826
- University Neuropsychiatric Institute crisis line (available 24/7): 801-587-3000
- Women’s Resource Center: 801-581-8030