Zoombombing: Sex Crimes and Security

By Emily Menendez 


It is safe to say we are all familiar with Zoom. Some of us more than others depending on how the world-wide pandemic has impacted your professional and casual needs of video communication. Following the outburst of COVID-19, Zoom Video Communication’s demand spiked from approximately 10 million users per day, back in 2019, to now more than 300 million.[1]

In addition to individuals and companies heavily using Zoom due to COVID-19 adjustments, numerous American schools and court systems are relying on Zoom to replace in-person interactions.[2] With the increased use of Zoom’s online services, numerous hackers labeled “Zoombombers” are causing havoc in virtual classrooms and courtrooms.[3] Most meeting interruptions orchestrated by Zoombombers include sexual content and inappropriate language.[4]

Depending on jurisdiction, an adult Zoombomber may face 20 years imprisonment for breaking the laws in place to protect children from obscene and explicit material.[5] Some Zoombombers will likely face criminal charges for committing sexual offense, specifically in the classroom settings under 18 U.S.C.S., if the content broadcasted includes child pornography and or sexually exploits children.[6] Similarly, if child pornography is broadcasted in a courtroom’s virtual meeting, the Zoombomber will face criminal consequences.[7]

In Florida, a courtroom hearing was continuously interrupted by a Zoombomber who aired a “fairly tame” pornography clip via the Zoom screenshare feature.[8] And although child pornography was not an issue here, laws regulating courtroom conduct do exist. After being postponed due to the on-going interruptions, the hearing was again interrupted the second time around.[9] The Florida judge told reporter Ryan Hughes that “next time he’ll require a password” for Zoom court proceedings in efforts to prevent Zoombombers from hacking in.[10] Depending on jurisdiction, laws prohibiting forcibly entering a courtroom, logging into a Zoom meeting without permission, and broadcasting television may impute criminal consequences upon a Zoombomber.[11]

Yes, it is prevalent that Zoombombers are a nuisance, interrupt the efficiency and safety of classrooms and courtrooms, and may very well be found as criminals for their conduct, however, the level of security currently enforced by schools and judges is lacking.[12] Teachers and judges need more training on how to effectively utilize the Zoom security tools.[13] Zoom is also far from the level of security that could and should be in place according to Dropbox’s own research on Zoom’s security measures.[14]

To deter Zoom meeting interruptions that can result in sexual exploitation of children and postponed court hearings, security measures need to be prioritized across the board.

[1] Mansoor Iqbal, Zoom Revenue and Usage Statistics (2020), Business of Apps (July 20, 2020), https://www.businessofapps.com/data/zoom-statistics/.

[2] Natasha Singer & Nicole Perlroth, Zoom’s Security Woes Were No Secret to Business Partners Like Dropbox, N.Y. Times (Apr. 20, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/20/technology/zoom-security-dropbox-hackers.html.

[3] Id.

[4] Janice Yu, Zoom-bombing: A Prank That Can Lead to Serious Criminal Charges, Fox10 (Aug. 19, 2020), https://www.fox10phoenix.com/news/zoom-bombing-a-prank-that-could-lead-to-serious-criminal-charges.

[5] Id.

[6] 18 U.S.C.A. § 2252A (2018).

[7] Id.

[8] Twitter Hack Teen’s Court Data ‘Zoombombed’ with Porn, BBC (Aug. 5, 2020), https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-53667664.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Alaska Stat. Ann.§ 48 (West 2020); Ky.Rev.Stat. Ann. § 519.020 (2020).

[12] Id.

[13] Yu, supra note 4.

[14] Singer & Perlroth, supra note 2.