Zoom bombing elicits increased cybersecurity


Photo courtesy of xavier.edu

During a Zoom meeting of an Introduction to Islam theology class, an individual using an alias entered the call and repeatedly used anti-Black racial slurs on Tuesday, Aug. 18.

The series of events was subsequently ruled a biased incident by Xavier’s Bias Advisory Response Team (BART). In an incident update, BART explained that the slurs were originally directed at a student but were turned towards the professor when he attempted to engage the perpetrator.

A similar incident took place during the next class meeting despite additional security  precautions. 

According to the BART, the matter was referred to the Dean of Students’ Office and University Technology Services for further investigation. 

For the time being, the investigations seem unlikely to turn up any answers as to who is responsible for the incident. According to Chief Information Officer Jeff Edwards, the university’s ability to investigate the digital incident is limited by information law.

“We have the technology to identify the location of the device used in the incident,” Edwards said. “But beyond that, we are blocked because the account information is managed by an internet service provider.” 

Edwards went on to say that the university would need to ask for a warrant to be enforced to obtain the information from the internet service provider. 

During the previous spring semester, the university mandated that every professor using Zoom have a password for their class meetings. Following this bias incident, the university now requires students to be logged in on Zoom through their Xavier student credentials. Those students who join the meeting from a personal Zoom account will be placed in a waiting room until the instructor allows them into the meeting.

Edwards emphasized the balance between convenience and safety that his team wants to strike.

“We want our decision to make it easy for faculty to use the security,” Edwards said. “The other option we had was to force everyone to be admitted by the professor, but we decided that there wouldn’t be enough time for that.” 

Despite working through some security issues, Edwards expressed satisfaction with the university’s technology provider.After deliberating between a few different technology companies, Xavier decided on Cincinnati-based Radiant Technologies to provide them with the infrastructure to conduct hybrid classes.

Edwards cited the superior audio quality as well as the monitors placed in front of the instructors as the determining factors in their decision.

“We felt as though the sound quality was important so remote students could stay engaged in the classroom, promoting our value of cura personalis,” Edwards stated. “The monitor is there for the purpose of ensuring that the instructor doesn’t forget about the digital students.”

Lisa Ottum, associate professor of English and BART co-chair, shared a concerned outlook about the future of digital biased incidents.

“As people spend more time physically distanced from one another, they’re interacting more online,” Ottum stated. “I fear that we may continue to see a rise in the incidence of technology-related bias in the upcoming months.”