University community reminded to take measures against Zoom bombing

January 28, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – As the University community continues to rely on Zoom as a platform for virtual meetings, Penn State students, faculty and staff are reminded that numerous tools are available to help avoid “Zoom bombing” — a type of online harassment where an individual hijacks a video conference to wreak havoc, such as using the screen-sharing function to show offensive or malicious content, or spouting hateful or threatening language. 

“While we’ve seen a marked decrease in Zoom bombings since last year due to security changes Penn State made, we are always deeply concerned and troubled any time an individual disrupts a meeting with harassment or offensive language,” said Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs. “The University repudiates hatred or discriminatory harassment toward any individual or group and finds these efforts to intimidate, shock or hurt our community to be deplorable and cowardly." 

A number of recent Zoom bombings at Penn State have been targeted at virtual events attended by people of color or featuring people of color as lecturers. Sims emphasized that any incidents of Zoom bombing should be reported to University Police immediately, and that offenders could face charges for unlawful use of a computer, harassment and disorderly conduct, among other charges. He added that Penn State Counseling and Psychological Services is helping to support students who were targeted at the virtual events. 

Richard Sparrow, interim chief information security officer for Penn State, said, “We encourage people to report incidents so they can be investigated. There are many cases where we have been able to identify Zoom bombers and referred them to law enforcement or the Office of Student Conduct.”  

In May 2020, Penn State updated the default settings on Zoom to help mitigate security threats and reduce Zoom bombings, Sparrow said. These measures included allowing only authenticated Penn State users to join a meeting, requiring passwords for participants joining by phone, turning off the chat feature and disabling screen sharing. 

Sparrow emphasized that to help avoid Zoom bombing, individuals should not share meeting passwords or change default settings.  

A list of tips and settings to help prevent unwanted actions by participants is available, and includes actions to help prevent unwanted participants such as:  

  • Controlling how participants can enter the meeting; 
  • Allowing only authenticated users to join;  
  • Limiting screen sharing; and  
  • Recording the meeting.  

The University also has provided guidance to all faculty and instructors on how to handle disruptions in remote classes at its website. Tech TAs are available to assist faculty, and Tech Tutors also are offering one-on-one consultations to provide additional technical support for staff and students.  

 For more information, check out the following knowledge-based articles:  

Questions also can be answered by contacting the IT Service Desk or by calling 814-865-HELP. 

Last Updated January 28, 2021