Poetry group terrorised by neo-Nazi intruders making death threats

Participants speak of shock after their meeting was ‘Zoom-bombed’ with hate speech, violent images and pornographic clips


In this photo illustration a Zoom App logo is displayed on a smartphone on March 30, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. - The Zoom video meeting and chat app has become the wildly popular host to millions of people working and studying from home during the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

A Jewish poetry group was left traumatised after hackers burst into their online meeting making death threats and displaying an image of a person in a black mask shouldering a machine gun.

Poet Yvonne Green, who leads the weekly Ner Yisroel meetings, said the ‘Zoom-bombing’ happened midway through Wednesday’s session when one man, whose camera was off, abruptly changed tone.

She said: “He was making death threats, he said ‘death to Jews’, ‘death to Israel’. It was very, very graphic.

“And at the same time, images started to come up on the screen of somebody in a black mask shouldering a machine gun.

“There were a lot of other images which were quite frightening.”

Ms Green called in the synagogue’s cybersecurity contact and urged everyone to leave, but the barrage continued as they lost control of the meeting and the attackers seemed to multiply.

At one point, she said, the screen featured video of “a woman opening and closing her labia.”

It took about 20 minutes for Ms Green and the IT expert to resolve the shocking situation, during which some members returned to the Zoom.

The group subsequently reconvened, but they were visibly shaken by what had happened.

Ms Green recalled: “They said, this is not hacking. This is worse. This is terror. This is not hacking, we’ve been terrorised.”

Many members, she said, are still very upset. One messaged her: “I didn’t sleep all night, I’m still getting palpitations from it, it knocked me for six.

“How could they do it? We were in such a wonderful zone.”

The shul has increased security for future meetings and Ms Green said “a police report is being collated”.

They are still determined to meet. Ms Green said: “It was just a very unkind and cruel and aggressive act of threat and hate.

“It will not weaken our resolve to meet and, you know, commit the crime of reading poetry together.

“Their crime was to read poetry with us and receive our hospitality and then to behave in this fashion.”

Julian Coleman, co-founder of event broadcast service Simcha Streaming, said a similar attack recently took place during one of his events. Hackers entered the room and subjected guests to an onslaught of antisemitic and neo-Nazi rhetoric as well as pornographic references.

The company contacted a cybersecurity expert for tips on how to circumvent an attack, which Mr Coleman shared on the company’s Facebook page.

They advised changing Zoom’s settings to disable the meeting password from being included in the emailed URL, then sending the password via a separate medium, such as WhatsApp, shortly before an event.

Organisers should add a co-host to maintain control, not use Jewish or religiously identifiable words in the event for hackers to search, and hosts should disable the ability for guests to unmute themselves.

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