After hackers ‘Zoombomb’ council meeting, KC hopes to ramp up security

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Confusion was written all over Kansas City Council members faces when hackers found a way into Tuesday’s joint committee Zoom meeting, forcing them to switch platforms.

“I heard one F-bomb,” city communications director Chris Hernandez said.

Hernandez said the hackers were spewing profanity and racial slurs. One of them was speaking a different language.

“When we switched to using these platforms, we knew that there were risks like this and these were discussed,” Hernandez said. “So the city clerk knew what the procedure would be if something like this happened.”

Going into a meeting with the intent to cause chaos is something known as “Zoombombing.”

“It’s more of a, ‘I want to mess with you‘ intent,” Check Point security expert Maya Levine said.

Levine said there are free features on Zoom that allow hosts to manage participants. You can mute and turn off other peoples video, just change the settings before starting the meeting.

“Don’t let them unmute themselves, don’t let them share their screen. You have the power to control what they can do and then you can remove them from the meeting if they are being disruptive in other ways,“ Levine sad.

The city still wants to hear from residents, even if it’s through a computer at your own house. Hernandez said it’s a balancing act between hearing public input and proper security.

“We certainly apologize for our residents having to witness that,” Hernandez said. “That’s just the virtual version of something that could have happened in person and has happened at public meetings before. It’s really just unfortunate.”

Hernandez said some commissions and boards bought a higher level of Zoom, which requires a moderator to control who can be heard.

Clearly, that wasn’t the case here. But the city is looking at ramping up security, while still offering appropriate public comment.

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