SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The Cupcakes and Conversations Mentoring Group was virtually celebrating their one year anniversary over the weekend when it was cut short by a group of men, who have yet to be identified, who hacked their zoom meeting.
“I mean it was really disheartening because the purpose of us having this entire session was one of celebration,” said Melanie Albarado, founder of Cupcakes and Conversations Mentoring Group.
Albarado and Ashley Robinson are the founder and co-founder of Cupcakes and Conversations, a mentoring group for young girls in grades 5 -12 in the Shreveport-Bossier area that has expanded around the country since going virtual due to COVID-19 helping girls with self-esteem, self-awareness, and identity.
“We set an environment for girls to be girls, for girls to interact with girls and to learn from different powerful women in the community,” said co-founder Ashley Robinson.
This past weekend the group held a virtual conference for more than 40 girls and their parents.
“We had multiple speakers, we had a principal, we had someone to talk about self-empowerment, so we had a wonderful panel to just help the girls with things they need in everyday life.”
But Just as the virtual conference began on Zoom it was hacked.
“When it very first started I actually was off of the screen, trying to log onto Facebook and I kind of heard some gasping just hearing those noises and so I came back to the screen, and once I came back to screen,” said Albarado.
Three unknown men started showing inappropriate images in front of the girls and taking control of the Zoom meeting.
“These girls were exposed to nudity, pornographic images, racial slurs that were absolutely horrible, they called them all types of names and called the parents all types of names, it was so much profanity that was being used.”
Melanie says it lasted about nine minutes and it took several attempts before she was able to end the virtual meeting. She and her co-founder filed a police report with Bossier City Police and a complaint to Zoom.
Now they are trying to reverse the damage that was done.
“We reached out to some counselors and they helped us and then they helped the girls in return, they sent a message to the girls to help them cope with what they saw,” said Robinson.
We did reach out to Zoom about this situation and a Zoom spokesperson sent this statement:
We have been deeply upset to hear about these types of incidents, and Zoom strongly condemns such behavior. We have recently updated a number of default settings and added features to help hosts more easily access in-meeting security controls, including controlling screen sharing, removing and reporting participants, and locking meetings, among other actions. We have also been educating users on security best practices for setting up their meetings, including recommending that users avoid sharing private meeting links and passwords publicly on websites, social media, or other public forums, and encouraging anyone hosting large-scale or public events to utilize Zoom’s webinar solution. We take meeting disruptions extremely seriously and where appropriate, we work closely with law enforcement authorities. We encourage users to report any incidents of this kind to Zoom and law enforcement authorities so the appropriate action can be taken against offenders.Statement from Zoom spokesperson
Zoom shared a few tips on how people can keep their meetings safe:
- Never share meeting IDs and passwords on social media.
- Get familiar with the host privacy and security controls.
- Keep your zoom default security features on like your waiting rooms, passwords and limited screen sharing.
- Consider having a meeting registration.