I just watched a news conference where the District Attorney of Centre County, Pennsylvania spoke about people Zoom Bombing and how there were multiple investigations going on. He was alleging that people were hacking into Zoom sessions and doing all kinds of craziness.
What is Zoom Bombing? Is there actually a crime in Pennsylvania called Zoom Bombing? The answer is no. According to the District Attorney of Centre County Zoom Bombing is when people hack into Zoom sessions that they are not a part of. Seems people have been hacking into Zoom sessions at Penn State and allegedly posting vulgar pictures and doing stuff to interrupt the Zoom sessions. Although Zoom Bombing is not a crime the DA believes doing so is a violation of several criminal statutes.
The DA said that these cases will be prosecuted, and everyone will be charged with Criminal Use of a Communication Facility. Other charges may include harassment and disorderly conduct. Criminal Use of a Communication Facility is a Felony of the Third-Degree with a maximum sentence of up to 7 years and a maximum fine of up to $15,000.00. A felony of the third-degree is no minor offense.
Let me focus on that charge. Here is how Criminal Use of a Communication Facility is defined in Pennsylvania:
A person commits a felony of the third degree if that person uses a communication facility to commit, cause or facilitate the commission or the attempt thereof of any crime which constitutes a felony under this title or under the act of April 14, 1972 (P.L. 233, No. 64), known as The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act. Every instance where the communication facility is utilized constitutes a separate offense under this section.
Well Zoom Bombing is not a violation of the Drug Act so we need not discuss that. The key part of this offense that may not be so easy for prosecutors to prove is a person must commit a separate underlying felony. Just because a person busts into a Zoom sessions is not automatically a separate felony. One possible underlying crime that is a felony is Unlawful Use of a Computer. That offense in summary requires illegally accessing or altering another computer or computer system.
With every new social trend it seems there is a new crime that is created by the government. Zoom Bombing is no different. It is a cool name but not a real charge. It is a headlines grabber.
One definite defense is the definition of the statute. By that I mean whatever charges come about from Zoom Bombing a person must look closely at the allegations to see if they match what the statute says is illegal. Merely being charged does not a conviction make. Another big defense is identity of the person accused. Is the alleged Zoom bomber the person who did the Zoom Bombing? If questioned by the police, the last thing you do is admit anything or apologize. Do not give any statement at all. Be polite and ask for a lawyer. Even if you have done nothing wrong. Police don’t ask you questions because they are bored. They ask questions because they think you did something wrong. A person has the right to remain silent when questioned and not talking is a very good thing.
Besides jail, fines, public shame, and all that goes with a conviction for a felony another concern is getting kicked out of school. If proven to be a Zoom Bomber a college has the right to punish a student and maybe even kick them out. The school disciplinary system gives a student very little rights so one must be careful if a police officer or a member of the school disciplinary system contacts you about this stuff.
College disciplinary divisions hold little regard for the constitution and all of the protections that come with the Bill of Rights. A student found to have been a Zoom bomber will not only face criminal charges, they face expulsion and losing all of that time and money put into getting a degree.