Queen’s University lecture hacked by ‘Zoom bombers’

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Queen’s University zoom lecture interrupted by hackers
WATCH: A guest lecturer at Queen's University was interrupted by hackers spewing anti-Semitic and racist messages during a live Zoom event. – Feb 4, 2021

Queen’s University is apologizing to a guest lecturer after a zoom event was hacked.

According to the school’s principal, Patrick Deane, hateful, sexist, racist and anti-Semitic messaging occurred during a Zoom presentation on Wednesday by unknown hackers.

“Queen’s extends a personal apology to Professor Lofton and all those who attended for any harm they suffered due to this incident,” wrote Deane in a statement.

Yale University professor Kathryn Lofton was invited by the School of Religion to speak to 160 students, faculty and community members.

The lecture was titled The Present Life of Blasphemy: Kanye West in American Popular Culture.

Lofton spoke to Global News on Thursday and said the hack didn’t happen until her lecture was finished and opened for questions.

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“There is a series or montage of vulgar images overlaid with ugly speech acts, racist insignia. There was a lot of pornography interspersed with violent imagery,” said Lofton.

Lofton says she attempted to speak over the hackers and to have a conversation but to no avail.

“I am certain that those Zoom bombers were half delinquent, but half truly angry that they believe they live in a world that they don’t control and that they’re not winning within. Then let’s talk about that! Why aren’t they winning? What makes them feel that lack?” said Lofton.

Aside from what was being said by the hackers, they shared videos of pornography, violent war and drawings of swastikas, according to Adnan Husain, the director of the School of Religion at Queen’s.

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“As director, I deeply regret that many students of several of our courses, our colleagues, co-workers and the public experienced this distressing violation,” said Husain.

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Husain told Global News on Thursday that the School of Religion, who hosted the event, acknowledges that the incident caused injury and offence to many students and faculty.

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Queen’s Hillel, a Jewish campus association, says several of their members were in attendance on Wednesday. They are offering support for any student or anyone affected by the anti-Semitic messages.

“We stand with the other minority groups, and other groups felt victimized by the messaging that was said, and we stand with everyone. We want to ensure policies are put forward that encompasses everyone, so they feel safe moving forward,” said Sydney Grad, the VP of Advocacy for Queen’s Hillel.

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Zoom hacking is nothing new.

According to a group of Canadian researchers, “Zoom bombing” became popular when the pandemic began.

The term comes from photo-bombing, which is defined as appearing “behind or in front of someone when their photograph is being taken, usually doing something silly as a joke.”

After lockdowns were implemented across Canada and people were forced to attend work and school virtually, Zoom became one of the tools to communicate. According to the group of researchers, this also brought scrutiny over the company’s weak privacy and security protocols.

According to their research, From April 3 to 28, 2020, their study analyzed a random sample of 1,000 tweets that contained Zoom-bomb related terms.

Over half of the tweets sought to organize and co-ordinate Zoom-bombing, often by sharing Zoom access codes or posted information and advice on avoiding such online disruptions.

Researcher Anthony Burton says the codes were shared on several social media websites before eventually being taken down.

“All the infrastructure and the platform space that people were using to organize, that we’re remotely publicly accessible — Reddit closed all the sub-Reddits that were being used, and they started moderating mentions of it,” said Burton.

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He says the number of “Zoom bombings” then dropped. The incident at Queen’s was one of a few on a large scale in months.

When asked if “Zoom bombers” can be found, Burton says if they’re not using their name and going by an alias, the chances of tracking them down is unlikely.

However, this hasn’t stopped Queen’s University from trying.

“We are actively working with our Information Technology Services to investigate the origins of this forced intrusion and to ensure it does not happen again,” Deane said.

“The incident has also been reported to Campus Security and Emergency Services and to the Kingston Police.”

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