FBI warns of teleconferencing hijacking

Updated April 12, 2020
FBI warns of teleconferencing hijacking

Here are some steps recommend to mitigate teleconference hijacking threats.  

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, many people find themselves working from home and managing their kids’ school work.  Families throughout the nation have turned to teleconferencing platforms to meet the needs of both work and school.  This surge in use of teleconferencing apps is raising privacy and security concerns.  The FBI has received numerous complaints about hackers breaking into meetings and online classrooms.

  • In one instance a high school reported that while a teacher was conducting an online class, an unidentified individual(s) dialed into the classroom. This individual yelled a profanity and then shouted the teacher’s home address in the middle of instruction.
  • In another incidents a school reported a meeting was accessed by an unidentified individual. The individual was visible on the video camera and displayed swastika tattoos.

The FBI recommends exercising due diligence and caution when using teleconferencing platforms. Here are some steps they recommend to mitigate teleconference hijacking threats: Teleconference

  • Make a meeting private, require a meeting password, use the waiting room feature, and control the admittance of guests.
  • Do not share a link to a teleconference or classroom on an unrestricted publicly available social media post. Provide the link directly to specific people.
  • Manage screen sharing options. For example in Zoom, change screen sharing to "host only."
  • Make sure your home network is secure.
  • Take attendance.If there's supposed to be 12 people on the call, and 13 are logged in, you know there’s an uninvited guest.
  • Make sure you are using the most updated version of any video teleconferencing platform.

With the stay at home order extending for many more weeks, it’s important to secure your internet and teleconferencing platforms. This is especially important if you have children using these platforms.

If you were a victim of a teleconference hijacking, or any cyber-crime, report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov. Additionally, if you receive a specific threat during a teleconference, please report it to us at tips.fbi.gov.