TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- A local cybersecurity expert is weighing in on the FBI warning video conference call users about hackers hijacking accounts, taking over screens, and leaving inappropriate harassing messages.

The term to describe it has been coined "Zoombombing." It's like photobombing, but instead of someone getting in the back of a photo, an intruder interrupts the conferencing call with racial slurs and sexually explicit content.

Doing so is disruptive and infuriating for parents whose kids might be exposed to that while using the app.

With an unprecedented amount of adults working from home or children learning how to navigate online schooling from home, it's important to be aware of what could go wrong.

As COVID-19 keeps changing the way we do anything, more are turning to video conference call apps to connect with friends and coworkers. Even students are using it to communicate with teachers and schoolwork. So how do you protect yourself from being a Zoombombing victim?

Jason Pistillo, president of the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, is a cybersecurity expert. The school offers students a cybersecurity degree. He also recently blogged his advice to not delete Zoom, but be cautious. Here's what he said video conference users can do to protect themselves.

"Any time there's a rise in the popularity in a software application, there's a rise in hacker attention," he explained.

Pistillo described "Zoombombing" as someone guesses the number or web address of the Zoom meeting, and they join the meeting, and they're an intruder. "When they join the meeting through their screen share or camera are putting things in the meeting that are inappropriate, just like a photobomb. Unfortunately, people are making racial slurs or sexually inappropriate images," he explained.

​He said the main issue is that people who created the virtual meeting and hosting them, may not be good at monitoring who is in the meeting. ​"The issue is more the control of the attendee list, than the encryption. It would be like locking a door in a conference room, but you don't know who's in the conference room."


He recommends good laptop, tablet, desktop "hygiene" to protect yourself. When's the last time you changed your password? Installed the latest virus protection? Updated software?


Pistillo said this isolates issues if your Zoom or other video conference apps were to be compromised. If your main email account has access to banking information, having a separate email dedicated to Zoom or yoga or whatever you're using it for could help protect you.


Pistillo recommends going into settings and adding a waiting room.


Users who created the meeting are considered hosts. Hosts should click settings and limit screen sharing capabilities. Don't skip over the fine print. Make sure you're clicking the settings portion too.


Even though it's convenient, Pistillo doesn't recommend people link their social media accounts together.

UAT also posted another blog about what other cybersecurity threats to be aware of during COVID-19.


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