back to article Court hearing on election security is zoombombed on 9/11 anniversary with porn, swastikas, pics of WTC attacks

A court hearing on election security in America failed in its own security efforts – when it was zoombombed with porn, swastikas and images of the World Trade Center attacks. The public hearing in an Atlanta federal district court on Friday had approximately 100 people on a Zoom conference call before it was taken over by a …

  1. Sparkus

    Zoom-bombing a crime? Maybe.

    Less-than-fully-competent public employees in charge of mission-essential services? Well, probably......

    1. beep54
      Meh

      ""Less-than-fully-competent public employees in charge of mission-essential services? Well, probably......"

      Dunno 'bout that. You would probably just be packing the jails with incompetent people.

      1. Danny 2 Silver badge

        EO exam

        I took the civil service EO (Executive Officer) exam when I was a teen, because my smarter older sister had taken it and got 91%.

        I didn't want a job in the civil service, but I enjoyed tests and interviews and wanted to beat my sis. I got 97%, although they still didn't offer me a job because, well, my awful personality.

        "Why are you here today?"

        "Because I wanted to beat my sister on the test."

        It was a standard intelligence test, councils used to use them to to sift applicants. You couldn't rise to middle management without passing it. I think it should be brought back. My eldest sister is a soulless moron who has risen to the top of the civil service and yet she would never have passed the EO exam, the only exam she passed was her Home Economics O Grade.

        The idea of a meritocracy is meaningless unless you test the merit of the employees.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "My eldest sister is a soulless moron"

          Any suggestions for what opinion the eldest sister has of the OP? :-)

          1. Danny 2 Silver badge

            Re: "My eldest sister is a soulless moron"

            She would murder me if she could. I just watched 'Des', David Tennant as the serial killer Dennis Neilson - he was a Job Centre worker who my mum met and who didn't try to kill her - unlike my sister.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: EO exam

          Sounds like they dodged a bullet there.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Sparkus,

      Strangely enough - operating loads of conference calls was not on the required skillset of the courts service until a few months ago - and it all happened rather quickly.

      I think cutting them a bit of slack might be in order. Given that they've both got the pressure of trying to do their job, in unusual circumstances (like the rest of us), but also to do so allowing public access. They're also not a famously well-funded branch of government.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They'll only prosecute

    The ones they disagree with, who don't push the narrative. This is especially obvious with partisan issues - two systems, and some are quite obviously above the law.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I think it's what they call a learning opportunity for the court.

  4. cornetman Silver badge

    The problem with this kind of thing is that zoom bombing is "easy", in terms of you can do it from the comfort of your home.

    One way to judge the seriousness might be to ask what might the ramifications be if the "interruption" was done in person at the traditional venue.

    In this case, if someone did indeed do this deed in a court, they would almost certainly have been dragged down to one of the cells to consider their actions for a few days.

    Would it be reasonable to do the same if someone zoombombed an actual court proceeding? Most people would be awed into good behaviour were they to be at the building itself, whereas we can see that idle teenagers can get away with this kind of behaviour because their apprehension is less likely.

  5. heyrick Silver badge

    A malicious prank, or a practical demonstration of how easy it is to subvert software and processes?

    Apart from embarrassment and upsetting delicate sensibilities, there was no "damage" here. Now consider if one finds a way to alter the stored choices of which candidate people have voted for...

  6. steviebuk Silver badge

    What?

    "Back in March, Michigan’s top law officials put out a statement warning that “anyone who hacks into a teleconference can be charged with state or federal crimes. Charges may include, to name just a few, disrupting a public meeting, computer intrusion, using a computer to commit a crime, hate crimes, fraud, or transmitting threatening communications.”

    The statement also noted that “all of these charges are punishable by fines and imprisonment.”"

    And how would that work out in court with a decent lawyer in your defense.

    "This defendant hacked into the zoom call and....".....

    "Objection. There was no hacking involved. You fuck whits left the meeting open to allow anyone to join. You were the ones using the wrong license (I suspect because you went for the cheap option to save money). So there was no hacking, you left the door wide open. We agree, my client was a cock, but you can't charge him/her for computer misuse or hacking as there was none."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Quid?

      I don't know... They can still be changed with computer misuse and all the others in the list. All your defense would do is remove "hacking" as a charge, along with providing a tacit admission of guilt for all the other charges.

    2. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: What?

      When there is one thing a judge hates, then it's a smart arse. Try that kind of defence, and you will get the maximum punishment. Just because it's open doesn't allow you to enter. Software is not capable of giving you that permission. You had no permission by the court to enter, so it's all the things that you are accused of.

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: What?

      steviebuk,

      If you had read the Michigan statement you'd have notice the use of the word hacking is in the explanatory bit before the specific mention of laws that you can be charged with breaking. I presume there's no statutory offence of hacking - it's covered under the more general computer intrusion.

      So firstly you're wrong.

      Secondly your point is silly. I don't know the US law specifically, but in the UK hacking (or cracking) is not required to fall foul of the Computer Misuse Act. It's unauthorised use of a computer. That also means you can be committing a crime if you use a computer you have been authorised to use in ways that exceed the usage permissions you were granted. Which should be obvious, otherwise none of those cases of IT managers who go rogue and trash their companies' networks would ever be prosecuted.

      Thirdly, your point utterly fails the common sense test. Just because somebody leaves their front door open, you are not legally entitled to enter their house and steal their stuff. You would be charged with theft for doing so, and nobody would have any sympathy when you complained that it was their fault for being "fuckwits who left the door open to anyone." The same principle applies to computer law.

      Fourthly, as someone has stated above, judges take a dim view of piss-takers and smart-arses. When you've fucked up, it's much better to apologise and admit fault - the more sincerity you can realistically fake the better...

      Finally, dial down the attitude. Not everyone is an IT expert. Do you expect people to mock you for your laughable ignorance of the Water Regulations? Fuckwits can die quite quickly if they don't understand vital stuff like this! But obviously not. It's a niche specialist area which a few people need to know in order to keep society working - and if they do their job right everyone else gets to ignore the whole issue.

      People didn't join the legal profession to play with computers - and certainly not to operate large conference calls, with all the techy hassle involved, and worse to have to do it while allowing the public access. They got lumbered with all this because of the weird circumstances of this year. The fuckwits involved are the people who disrupted an important aspect of how our societies work for a cheap laugh - not the people who are just trying to get on with their jobs.

      1. NiceCuppaTea

        Re: What?

        Third point fails miserably unfortunately.

        I will agree your analogy is correct but it just doesnt apply.

        What actually happened is more akin to someone leaving their door open with a fat ass sign outside saying "OPEN HOUSE, PUBLIC WELCOME".

        The owner then subsequently giving everyone a paintbrush and a paint can then wondering why some joker decided to paint the kitchen bright pink with green dots whilst others did no painting at all and the acutal decorators stood to one side.

        Nobody is saying that everyone needs to be a computer expert just that before letting people loose with tools that have the potential to cause fuckups they should have adequate knowledge and training associated with the tools they are using. Would you give a circular saw to random person with no carpentry training/experience and tell them to go build a shed?

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: What?

          Nuh-uh - it comes down to permission vs ability. Every participant had the ability to share, but only specific people were given the permission to share. In a traditional courtroom, everyone there has the ability to say anything, but only specific people have permission at any point.

          To use your analogy, only the decorators were given the paint and brushes, but they are sitting there where anyone can get them. It would be a crime (vandalism) for someone attending the open house to pick up a paintbrush and use it to paint green dots in the kitchen. They were given access to the house for viewing it, not for painting it.

          The actual zoom issue is in cost, they have gone with a pro/business license, which is around £10 - £15 per month. In order to have specific co-hosts, you need the webinar option, which is an extra £26 - £32 per month - its not insignificant.

      2. Scott 26

        Re: What?

        @I aint Spartacus: wish I could upvote these counter points more than once..... nice.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: What?

          Scott 26,

          Why thankyou. [blushes]

          I think it was the tone of this whole thread that sent me off into my little rant. Plus at the time the OP had 6 upvotes and no downvotes - which annoyed me even more...

          If it had been a tone of amusement that some kids had made a court watch porn, that would be all fine and dandy. Who doesn't like saying "bum" in church after all?

          But there's a whole bunch of posts on this thread about how these idiots deserved it, for not securing their IT properly. And that they people who should be punished are not those who are in comtempt of court for no valid reason - but the poor sods who'd had to learn a bunch of new skills on the fly because of Covid19.

          Which is an attitude that really pisses me off! It comes from an entirely misplaced elitism. Sure there are many people here who are part of the IT elite. Know the jargon, can use the magic computer boxes that perplex and petrifiy so many of our fellow humans. And that's great, and it's important that they exist. But there's this unhealthy (and ugly) attitude on here sometimes of contempt for those not blessed with those skills. Yet how many of us can fix our own cars, or perform heart surgery, or even work out how to do their taxes properly? All also vital skills for living in the modern world. We have a very diverse economy with many specialist skills - and society needs all of them to work well. But not everyone can be on top of all of them at once.

          To quote my friend, who designs and hand-builds furniture - "I don't want to know why it's broken. I don't understand computers. I understand wood." He's got a black belt in judo, used to do cave and mountain rescue, can build beautiful pieces of furniture that will probably be on the antiques roadshow in 100 years, can draw upside down while designing a piece of furniture in his head and explaining to you how it will work and where it will fit in the design of a room and can do stand-up comedy. Are those not enough skills that he shouldn't have to be considered useless, just because he struggles with computers?

          Ooops. Grumpy Rant: The Sequel. Sod it! I'll post it anyway.

    4. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: What?

      In a real world analogy, "breaking and entering" doesn't require that you actually break anything, just that you are not entering the building for lawful purposes. For instance, if you are invited to your friends house, but steal his dog while you are there, its still burglary. If the front door is wide open and you go in and take valuables, its still burglary.

      With respect to "hacking", the CFAA in the US starts off by saying Whoever having knowingly accessed a computer without authorization or exceeding authorized access.... The law doesn't really mention hacking, just that you have accessed what you were not allowed to. The Computer Misuse Act in the UK has similar language.

    5. cornetman Silver badge

      Re: What?

      I would think that the most interesting angle would be contempt of court charges. The "hacking" angle is both weak and legally tenuous.

  7. sdjones2001
    Stop

    Is racism less egregious?

    "But less egregious examples of zoombombing have been dealt with differently. Last month, the small town of Sylva in North Carolina decided that no crime had been committed when its town board meeting in June, taking place over Zoom, was disrupted by participants shouting racist abuse."

    I would have thought that racist accuse is amongst the MOST egregious thing that individuals can do in public...?

    1. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Re: Is racism less egregious?

      I would have thought that racist accuse is amongst the MOST egregious thing that individuals can do in public...?

      Not in the US. Even their clownish President does some periodically, with the sole effect to enjoy his racist base. One of the problem in the US is it wasn't denazified after WW2.

  8. David Roberts

    Disrupting a public meeting?

    Potentially a very broad brush to prevent or punish legitimate protest.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Three improvements the Reg can make...

    1. We should be able to successfully upvote posts, including our own, as many times as we like. Downvoting should be removed. This would improve morale.

    2. When posting anonymously, we should be able to chose any valid Reg user name to post under. This would mix-positive the conversation in a very Social 2.0 way.

    How's about it?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Three improvements the Reg can make...

      Tee hee!

      I should really downvote your post on principle.. Obviously I've already taken advantage of this system, not being Spartacus and all.

      However surely the beatings will continue until morale improves. Hence downovtes can be retained. After all, how else can all us embittered old lags fully express our need to bring down all the happy bastards to our level of misery?

  10. JCitizen Bronze badge
    Trollface

    I was reading about one of these..

    incidents on Krebs on Security, and one look at the face of the prosecutor when seeing the porn coming on the screen was priceless! I was definitely rolling on the floor laughing out loud!

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