Lake Oswego Library activity gets 'Zoombombed'
The Lake Oswego Public Library has offered virtual events and activities since it was ordered to close in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic — last Thursday's trivia night being one activity hosted through the Zoom platform. And never did library staff — or the general public — expect that it would be intruded upon in such a disturbing way.
The family-friendly trivia event was "Zoombombed" — the word refers to someone who has intruded or hacked onto a video conference — April 30 with child pornography.
"I don't even have the words. It's just awful (and) horrifying — just the fact that our folks would be violated in this way," Library Director Melissa Kelly said. "I'm just so sorry that it happened."
The intruder had a generic screen name of "Lindsay," according to Kelly, that resembled a person from the public trying to innocently enter the trivia game.
According to Lake Oswego Police said Sgt. Tom Hamann, the Zoom trivia activity was not recorded and police have not identified the intruder.
"If in fact they did take over the presenter (video) that's one thing and if in fact that's what happened, then we recommend whoever is the presenter make sure that their password is a good password that's not easily guessed (and) that they can take the security precautions," Hamann said. "There are other platforms that are more secure."
There were about 40 people logged onto Zoom when the incident occured. Kelly said staff followed the recommended protocols for Zoom and had a private meeting ID, but no password.
Zoom meeting IDs are not always private and are published in an online directory.
"The hacker, with a generic screen name of "lindsay," did not take over the host controls, but they displayed the offensive video in their own individual video feed," Kelly said. "They were able to share their audio and video for a few seconds until library staff removed them from the meeting."
The latest version of Zoom includes a "Report a User" option for meeting hosts and co-hosts to flag people who are misusing the platform.
"This incident is truly devastating and appalling, and our user policies explicitly prohibit any obscene, indecent, illegal or violent activity or content on the platform. We are looking into this specific incident to ensure the appropriate action is taken," a Zoom spokesperson said. "Zoom strongly condemns such behavior and recently updated several features to help our users more easily protect their meeting.
"For all users, we have made the Zoom Meeting ID less visible to help prevent unintended sharing, and we have added a new Security icon to the Zoom meeting controls for all hosts to help them quickly access in-meeting security features, including the ability to remove participants and lock meetings, among other actions."
Lake Oswego resident Katy McShane was participating in her second library trivia activity with her husband at home. She said they were maybe an hour into the trivia when they took a break to score the previous rounds. When she looked back at the computer she saw child pornography.
After a few seconds, McShane slammed the computer shut and had to take a walk with her husband to clear her head.
"It was horrifying," McShane said. "I just wanted to throw up … especially in a time like this where everything is horrible, everything is really heavy and really hard, and this was the closest thing we could get to an innocent escape where we could all just enjoy something nice with our community. And to have that be terrorized, it … felt so violating and awful."
The library was aware that incidents like this have occurred elsewhere — to varying degrees of severity — so staff members were able to handle the situation immediately and remove the intruder within seconds.
"In a virtual world, you can't guarantee that (a similar situation won't happen again) but we're doing everything that we can," said Kelly, adding that the library has been exploring alternative platforms and additional safety barriers.
The library plans to transition from using a Zoom platform to WebEx, another video conferencing platform. Kelly said people can contact the library or fill out a web form ahead of time in order to receive the video invite, so there's less chance of an intruder.
"That does create a barrier for folks who want to participate," Kelly said.
The library plans to continue hosting activities, including trivia, and there will be instructions on the website for the new platform once staff has set it up.
Visit the library's website to access trivia and other virtual library events.
Hamann said this is not a common incident, but if people see something like this happen, to take note of the username and report it to police.
He said there is always a risk associated with public meetings or virtual activities. It's similar to a person walking into the library and exposing themselves, Hamann said, adding that it's important to balance the risk of something like that happening with equitable community access to activities like trivia.
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