(Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Justice Department is warning it’ll charge you with a crime if you’re found hijacking a Zoom video meeting with malicious intent. 

Law enforcement officials in Michigan issued the warning on Friday amid a wave of “Zoom-bombing” incidents sweeping the country. Although the culprits behind the hijackings often claim they’re simply pranking or “trolling” their victims, US attorneys in Michigan say otherwise. 

“You think Zoom-bombing is funny?  Let’s see how funny it is after you get arrested,” Matthew Schneider, US Attorney for Eastern Michigan, said in a statement.  “If you interfere with a teleconference or public meeting in Michigan, you could have federal, state, or local law enforcement knocking at your door.” 

According to the feds, the charges could include disrupting a public meeting, computer intrusion, hate crimes, fraud, or transmitting threatening communications. If found guilty, the crimes can be punishable by fines or imprisonment.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, millions of Americans are now relying on Zoom’s free video-conferencing software to hold online classes, talk with family, and run business, including yoga sessions. However, the product’s sudden popularity has also made it a target for online trolls, racists, and bored students. For weeks now, they’ve been infiltrating Zoom video sessions to prank and harass unsuspecting users with curse words, racial epithets, and other obscenities. In some cases, the culprits are even uploading the exploits on YouTube and TikTok for all to see. 

YouTube videos of Zoom-bombings.

Both the FBI and now US attorneys in Michigan are calling on victims to report any Zoom-bombing incidents to federal agents or local law enforcement. 

“Whether you run a business, a law enforcement meeting, a classroom or you just want to video chat with family, you need to be aware that your video conference may not be secure and information you share may be compromised,” said US Attorney Andrew Birge in a statement. “Be careful.  If you do get hacked, call us.”

To stop the hijackings, Zoom on Sunday began rolling out new security enhancements that should help keep out unwanted guests during video-conferencing sessions. The changes include requiring passwords on all previously scheduled meetings and turning on the “waiting room” feature for all video sessions going forward. 

As of today, you can still find numerous hijackers conspiring in online chats to infiltrate new Zoom meetings. The culprits are learning about the video sessions because both the meeting IDs and passwords are getting shared online, sometimes amongst students. However, Zoom’s waiting room feature appears to be preventing the hijackers from easily entering the main video session. 

To stay safe, Zoom has posted a blog post on securing your video sessions. You can also consult our guide on preventing Zoom-bombing intrusions.

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