The rise of Webinar spamming in Nepal

The whole world has to changeover work methods as an effort to avoid and stop the spread of COVID-19. Many government agencies, corporations, universities, and schools adopt home-working policies and many of them use online conference tools. One of the platforms whose name is being popular among today’s professionals for online conferencing is Zoom. Besides Zoom; Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, GoToWebinar, etc. are also broadly popular.

Disregarding few people are involved in this activity. They intend to distract and hijack a conference video by sending pornographic pictures or hates speech along with threats.

Schools, colleges, and various institutions have been hosting webinars to make the best use of the lockdown period. Girls In Tech – Nepal in collaboration with Genese Cloud Academy has been hosting webinars, three each week, since the end of March 2020. Over two dozen webinars have been already organized and getting encouraging participation in each session.

Sadly, the webinars have started getting disturbed by spammers who participate anonymously with the sole intention of disturbing these sessions. After severe disturbances, some of the webinars hosted by Girls In Tech – Nepal had to be terminated and postponed. Girls In Tech – Nepal is not the sole victim of such occurrences. Robotics Association of Nepal (RAN) also faced similar spammer activity in a virtual panel discussion hosted on 27 April by its Miss Tech wing. Few spammers posted comments with vulgar words in the chat thread of the session’s LIVE video making the situation awkward for everyone.

Similarly, NxtGen – a non-profit organization under the Pulchowk Engineering Campus also faced a similar incidence on the ‘COVID-19 Preparedness for Students’ session hosted on 27 April. The session was hosted to prepare individuals for upcoming uncertain times due to the COVID-19 outbreak. During the event, the organizers noticed some audiences from fake emails violating cybersecurity laws which left the audience and the speakers to misery. However, NxtGen was able to immediately fix the lack of security on the platform that the individuals exploited and promptly began working with law enforcement. Furthermore, the NxtGen team has noted all the information of these breachers by tracing their emails and plans to file a cybercrime case soon.

After experiencing disturbances by spammers in its webinars, Girl in Tech – Nepal team tracked the fraudulent people involved in the activity.

Talking about how the group was successfully tracked and what steps the team is taking to stop such incidences. Anjani Phuyal, CEO of Genese Cloud Academy and founder of Girls In Tech – Nepal shared,

“After we faced such disturbances, we tracked the users through their emails and we came to know they were doing it in an organized way. They had formed a private Facebook group where they used to note down all the webinars that are happening in Nepal and abroad. After the webinars started, they would spam & hijack these sessions. Such activities are cybercrime and punishable by law. After we tracked them and found that they are young college students who didn’t know the consequences of such activities, we contacted and warned them that we will take action if they continue such behavior. They have promised to not repeat such activities in the future and provided a written apology and hence we decided to forgive them as taking them with law enforcement at this stage will ruin their career and life.”

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Similarly, Shova Shedai, Miss Tech Coordinator at Robotics Association of Nepal shared, “We faced spammer activity during our virtual panel discussion live through the Facebook page. A Facebook user through an anonymous profile made multiple comments using vulgar words in the LIVE video of the virtual panel discussion. We had senior and respected speakers so we felt bad seeing such comments, and had to delete the comments at that moment. Such spammer activity is disgusting and we don’t want to let this type of crime go as normal. We are raising our voices for controlling this kind of activity.”

Plus, ICT Frame had organized Webinar on “Women in Tech: Career Challenges and Opportunities” which was too spammed by a few individuals showing some pornographic content on the live webinar. The organizers had to stop the webinar immediately and begin with a new session.

Recently, with the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), all 753 local level government offices are being accosted to provide necessary details of the official person to access the Zoom license. They had already provided this software to the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration.

While local and state governments can click here to send details for licensed zoom software.

Internet security and cybercrime is a growing interest all across the world. Because of the lack of knowledge about laws, many cyber-criminals don’t know what they are doing is a crime. Many of those involved in such activities are doing it thinking they can’t be tracked. They chose to remain anonymous and can get away easily after committing such incidents. However, such activities shouldn’t be taken lightly and we shouldn’t let them go easily after doing all the harms. It’s high time we raise awareness about cybercrime and internet security.

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