One video calling application that has witnessed a boom in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic is Zoom.
However, Zoom is now facing a legal suit after a church located in San Franciso, USA, sued for an alleged infiltration by a hacker during one of its Bible study classes.
The church, Saint Paulus Lutheran Church is one of the oldest churches in the city and on May 6, it held a bible study class on Zoom with most of the attendees senior citizens.
In the lawsuit, the church alleges that 42 minutes into the class, their computer screens were “hijacked” and “control buttons disabled” while pornographic video was streamed.
The lawsuit that was filed on Wednesday on behalf of the church and its church administrator claims: “The footages were sick and sickening — portraying adults engaging in sexual acts with each other and performing sexual acts on infants and children, in addition to physically abusing them,” adding that Zoom admitted the hacker was a “known serial offender” who had been reported “multiple times to the authorities.”
In the suit, the plaintiffs accuse Zoom of “prioritizing profit and revenue over data protection and user security” and are seeking damages for negligence, invasion of privacy and violations of California state consumer protection and privacy statutes among other things.
“The Church filed this lawsuit only after Zoom refused to take its concerns seriously,” Mark Molumphy, one of the church’s lawyers, told CNN in an email statement.
Molumphy, a partner at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy One, said: “One would think that Zoom — having been informed of the Church’s horrific experience would’ve done everything possible to acknowledge and fix the security vulnerabilities of its platform. Instead, the Church was basically ignored, and Zoom likely hoped that the Church would just go away. However, it is not going away, and instead, courageously stepping up to try to change Zoom’s practices and make sure this doesn’t happen again to anyone else.”
The lawsuit also added that when students tried ending the session and starting over, the hacker attacked again.
Zoom disputed the church’s claims that it did not immediately take action following the incident.
“We were deeply upset to hear about this incident, and our hearts go out to those impacted by this horrific event. Words cannot express how strongly we condemn such behavior,” a spokesperson for Zoom said in an email statement to CNN.
A spokesperson for Zoom termed the incident “horrific”, in a statement shared with BBC.
“Our hearts go out to those impacted,” the company said, and added, “On the same day we learned of this incident, we identified the offender, took action to block their access to the platform and reported them to the relevant authorities.
“We encourage users to report any incidents of this kind either to Zoom so we can take appropriate action or directly to law enforcement authorities. We also encourage all meeting hosts to take advantage of Zoom’s recently updated security features and follow other best practices, including making sure not to broadly share meeting IDs and passwords online, as appeared to be the case here,” the spokesperson added.
The spokesperson pointed to a series of blog posts by the company that highlighted the security enhancements Zoom has made in recent months, such as making meeting passwords a default and updating its encryption standard.