Racist "Zoom bombings" have attacked virtual meetings on college campuses in Wyoming and Utah this month.
A public event hosted by the University of Wyoming via Zoom to celebrate Black History Month was interrupted by people spewing racist and pornograhic language and imagery. In Utah, racist hackers infiltrated a virtual poetry slam that was part of Black History Month events at Salt Lake Community College, and also disrupted a conference hosted by the University of Utah Dream Center and SLCC's Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Office.
Across the country, and especially on college campuses, such attacks have steadily increased with more people working and learning virtually.
"The Zoom bombing is simply the mischievous practice of joining other parties' Zoom sessions without being invited or without permission, or both, and doing things on that session that would disturb the parties who are supposed to be there," said Joseph Steinberg, an internet and cyber security expert.
As the incidents in Wyoming and Utah show, the attacks too often go beyond mischievous.
Steinberg said it's important to password-protect gatherings over Zoom and other video conferencing platforms. He also recommended having a virtual waiting room, so only the people the organizer has approved can enter the meeting.
This week, the University of Wyoming's Black Studies Center and the university's president held a town hall meeting to address the attack.
The Black Studies Center posted a statement saying the Zoom bombing "serves as a reminder and epitomizes the attitudes originating from America's long-standing and entrenched racial history and the white privilege, white supremacy, and systemic discrimination that continue to be its legacy."
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.