Changes coming after borough board gets ‘Zoom bombed’


NAUGATUCK — Borough officials are changing how they operate virtual meetings after a few individuals disrupted last week’s Board of Mayor and Burgesses meeting.

About 15 minutes into the board’s April 7 meeting, which was hosted online through Zoom, the first culprit disrupted the meeting by saying a racial slur and other things that weren’t coherent. The meeting was interrupted two other times. Someone exposed and slapped his butt on camera, and another person made taunting comments while showing an image of a Confederate flag.

“It was a public meeting, the password was posted and they attended,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said. “This was not a technology failure where people were hacking into the meeting. It was a question where people got into the meeting and made an effort to disrupt it.”

Hess said it wouldn’t be any different than if someone attended a meeting in person and interrupted it.

Information Technology Director Jim Kallipolites removed the culprits from the meeting.

The meeting was the first the borough held through Zoom since the COVID-19 outbreak, according to Kallipolites. Officials are looking into ways to make virtual meetings more secure while complying with the Freedom of Information Act.

“We are making changes,” Hess said. “We will comply with the governor’s order with FOIA and with the technology that is appropriate.”

Kallipolites said officials are looking at ways to authenticate the identity of someone who signs into a meeting through Zoom. He said officials may also have a moderator at meetings to track people who sign in.

“We want to remain in complete control, if someone slips through the cracks, they can’t cause a disruption,” Kallipolites said. “We’re trying to minimize any disruptions, trying to lock Zoom down.”

Deputy Police Chief C. Colin McAllister said police are investigating the incident to determine whether any crimes were committed and who was responsible. He said police are working with the borough’s IT department on the investigation, which is in the early stages.

Disruptions during Zoom meetings, referred to as “zoom bombing,” is a growing trend across the country as officials and students use the platform for virtual meetings and classrooms.

In Connecticut, Madison police charged a teenager this month with computer crimes after teachers reported the unidentified teen joined online classes and intentionally disrupted them with “obscene language and gestures,” the Associated Press reported.

Editor’s note. This story has been updated to include information about police opening an investigation into the incident.