Two 'Zoom-bombings' under investigation by University Police

February 15, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State leadership has been made aware of two "Zoom-bombing" incidents that appear to be racially motivated and targeted two separate diversity events yesterday (Feb. 15), one at Penn State Brandywine and the other being held at University Park. Zoom-bombing is a type of online harassment where an individual hijacks a video conference to wreak havoc, cause distress and upset meeting or event participants.

University Police and Public Safety’s Criminal Investigations Unit is actively investigating both incidents and pursuing all resources to identify the suspect, along with Penn State’s Office of Information Security. In both Zoom-bombing instances, a suspect depicted themself as a police officer while displaying what appears to be a firearm. Evidence indicates the incidents were racially motivated. Police Victim Services unit is providing support to those impacted and will keep victims updated on investigations. 

Additional outreach is taking place to determine if these incidents are isolated or more widespread on Penn State’s campuses. Anyone with information about these incidents should contact University Police at 814-863-1111 or submit a tip online at https://www.police.psu.edu/report-crime. These Zoom attacks on underrepresented communities or communities discussing diversity topics are among a number of similar incidents targeting universities across the nation.

"These vile activities are reprehensible and the disruption and trauma they create is inexcusable," said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. "We must continue to stand strong together against these appalling incidents and show that our community will not tolerate the hate-filled words and actions of those who hide behind the anonymity of a computer screen. These are criminal activities and, if found, we will hold the perpetrators responsible."

Police indicated that investigations of this nature can be complex and lengthy due in part to court orders and search warrants required to obtain critical evidence and also because those who commit such crimes are usually technologically deceptive and take a variety of steps to conceal their identities and whereabouts.

Those hosting any Zoom meetings or events are asked to review how to secure their events to prevent this online harassment and victimization. One key tactic to thwart unwanted participants includes controlling how participants can enter the meeting, by requiring a password or setting up a waiting room and checking in attendees individually. Meanwhile, the University said it is exploring the potential for additional steps it can take to help secure zoom meetings.

In addition, the University offers the following resources for students, faculty and staff who are seeking support:  

Students

Faculty/Staff

Last Updated April 15, 2021