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Selectboard increases security measures for online meetings

Board members heckled after meeting was ‘Zoom bombed’

BRATTLEBORO—The Selectboard closed its Aug. 4 meeting early as a result of a person who heckled town officials and shared a multimedia cornucopia of sexist, racist, and profane language and music.

The meeting was the board’s first foray using the Zoom online meeting platform. The meeting also happened during the Aug. 4 power outage caused by Tropical Storm Isaias.

The person flashed pornographic images and Nazi symbols on the screen and insulted the meeting participants and board members.

Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland attempted to eject the guest, only to find he was entering the Zoom space as a new user and escalating his behavior.

At one point, the person taunted board members, saying that he was able to disrupt the meeting because board member Ian Goodnow had provided the meeting’s entry code.

“It’s a public code,” Board Chair Tim Wessel replied acidly. “You’re no Sherlock Holmes.”

An extra but critical security step

Town Manager Peter Elwell later told The Commons that the board has increased security for future online meetings.

He said that many of the security measures will be configured in the “meeting host” settings the town chooses.

The town will also institute passcodes for each meeting. Members of the public can find the passcodes on the meeting warnings, along with the Zoom meeting link.

According to Elwell, even though the passcodes are made public, they still serve an important security step.

He said that according to research conducted by Moreland, people hoping to troll Zoom meetings often use digital tools to search the internet for warnings of and login information for vulnerable meetings.

These digital tools often identify meetings with passcodes as harder to hack into and will pass them over, Elwell said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #574 (Wednesday, August 12, 2020). This story appeared on page A3.

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