String of Zoom hackings across Canadian universities appear to be racially motivated

Queen’s, University of Saskatchewan among five universities recently targeted by racist Zoom bombings 

An event run by the School of Religion was subject to a racist and homophobic Zoom hacking in February.
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Early in February, a Queen’s event run by the School of Religion was subject to a racist and homophobic Zoom hacking.

Zoom hackings have occurred throughout Canadian post-secondary institutions since the start of the pandemic. Though the platform has implemented measures to prevent such attacks, it claims it’s extremely difficult to do so, especially in cases where a perpetrator comes from within an organization.

Recently, there’s been a rise in Zoom bombings targeting universities. Many of these cases appear to be racially motivated. 

Attacks have been carried out during anti-racist or cultural events at Western UniversityDalhousie University, and the University of Waterloo. Two of these attacks occurred in the last month.

The day after the incident at Queen’s, a vigil for victims of the Quebec mosque shooting held by the University of Saskatchewan was Zoom-bombed.

READ MORE: School of Religion apologizes for “distressing violation” by hacker at Zoom event

In all cases, the hackers used bigoted language—including racial, homophobic, islamophobic, and anti-Semitic slurs. Attendees of the affected events at Queen’s, the University of Waterloo, and the University of Saskatchewan also reported the hackers sharing their screens to broadcast violent and disturbing images. 

Patti McDougall, vice-provost (teaching, learning, and student experience) at the University of Saskatchewan, told The Journal two other incidents of Zoom hacking occurred in recent weeks during lectures. 

“Unfortunately, we are not aware of any means that would permit us to identify the digital traces of those who entered these gatherings and perpetrated disruption and harm. The fact that we do not hold a license for Zoom means that we don’t have any direct connection to the vendor beyond being able to report an incident on-line as any other individual user might do.”

Like Queen’s, the University of Saskatchewan is more widely publicizing its guidelines for safety and security as a result of the attacks. 

“We have been in contact with other universities in Saskatchewan to share best practices.”

In an email to The Journal, Constable Ashley Gutheinz confirmed Kingston Police is in the early stages of an investigation regarding the incident at Queen’s. 

“The incident involved a Zoom meeting where unknown parties entered and sabotaged the end of the meeting during question period. The meeting was ended as a result of this hacking. As for content of interruption, it was pornographic (adult) in nature and contained hate based content. This is why the meeting was abruptly ended. The investigation is ongoing.”

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