DOJ says Zoom-bombing is a crime

DOJ officials say Zoom-bombing raids could lead to arrests, fines, and even prison sentences.

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Discord channels where Zoom-bombing raids are organized

Image: ZDNet

The US Department of Justice has published a press release on Friday warning pranksters that "Zoom-bombing" could lead to fines or arrests on a variety of state or federal charges.

The DOJ's announcement comes after Zoom-bombing is becoming a favorite pastime for bored teenagers stuck in their homes due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) quarantines.

As ZDNet reported this week, teenagers and students are using a variety of social networks -- such as Discord, Reddit, and Twitter -- to organize or request that pranksters raid Zoom meetings.

Miscreants then connect to Zoom channels and hurl insults, play pornographic material, or make death threats against other participants.

Over the past two weeks, Zoom-bombing incidents have impacted school classes, local government meetings, corporate conferences, AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meet-ups, and many more.

Zoom-bombing has become so widespread and disruptive that the FBI took a rare step this week to send out a nationwide security alert, urging companies to look into securing meetings against online trolls.

Today, the DOJ says that if this behavior continues, we might soon see a crackdown against trolls.

"You think Zoom bombing is funny? Let's see how funny it is after you get arrested," said Matthew Schneider, United States Attorney for Eastern Michigan.

The DOJ official said that breaking into Zoom meetings and then hurling insults easily falls under the same laws that punish hacking and harassment.

Depending on the Zoom-bomber's behavior, charges could include the likes of disrupting a public meeting, computer intrusion, using a computer to commit a crime, hate crimes, fraud, or transmitting threatening communications.

The DOJ said that all of these are punishable by fines and imprisonment and that they won't shy away from applying the law.

The DOJ's effort to crack down against Zoom-bombing is led by its Michigan officials after earlier this week pranksters disrupted two local government meetings in the state -- one of the Grosse Ile Township and another meeting at the Detroit Water Department.

Michigan Justice officials said they were alerted to this issue by a local reporter who participated in one of these meetings. They now urge users to follow Zoom's advice and better configure their online conferences, and if they get Zoom-bombed, report the incident so they can follow through and prosecute.