'Zoombombers' raid business leaders' video conference

Gigi Grande, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 23 2020 03:40 PM | Updated as of Apr 23 2020 08:19 PM

MANILA (UPDATED) - A Zoom video conference hosted by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship whose participants included some of the country’s top business leaders was disrupted by “zoombombers” not once, not twice, but at least five times on Thursday morning.

Just as Presidential Adviser Joey Concepcion was about to welcome some 300 participants to the Project ARK forum, music blared out of nowhere followed by obscene lyrics. ARK stands for Antibody Rapid Test Kits. 

Concepcion is leading the private sector’s initiative to test employees and workers to determine who is fit to return to work once restrictions of Luzon’s Enhanced Community Quarantine are relaxed.

The graphic music was followed by cuss words typed repeatedly in the chat room. In the next two-and-a-half hours, other attempts to disrupt the meeting would be made by intruders who cut through the video conference with movie clips. 

Watch more in iWant or TFC.tv

Frustrated, Concepcion asked staff managing the video conference to "do a better job".

Concepcion’s media relations officer said only one password and link was sent to numerous invitees. Security expert Ace Esmeralda, who was among the participants of the forum, said he anticipated there would be privacy issues. 

“The persons they sent it to could have easily shared the link or password with others,” Esmeralda said. “They just accepted everyone into the meeting, even those who had names like Galaxy.”

Fortunately, nothing especially sensitive was discussed, said Esmeralda. “But in the future they should probably have a registration page and a system-generated password that is unique for each participant.” He also said it would be best to work with a smaller group.

The forum was an opportunity for Concepcion to encourage more business leaders to participate in Project ARK. Medical experts were also present to answer questions, from the likes of Doris Magsaysay Ho, President and CEO of Magsaysay Group of Companies; Victor Paterno, President and CEO of Philippine Seven Corporation; Atty. Francis Lim, President of the Management Association of the Philippines; Karen Batungbacal, Executive General Manager of QBE Group Shared Services; and senior management representatives of Wilcon, Ever Gotesco, Cebu Pacific, and Shakey’s to name a few.

Zoom’s videoconferencing platform has become popular worldwide among people left with no choice but to work from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But reports of privacy and security issues have slowly started to surface. Zoom said it is addressing those issues.

“Zoom is popular because of the convenience, “ Esmeralda said. “But there are other more secure platforms that have an authentication process to ensure the person joining the video conference was really invited.”