Wake Forest University sign

WINSTON-SALEM — Hackers used racist language and anti-Semitic images to disrupt an online meeting attended by hundreds of Wake Forest University employees.

President Nathan Hatch, in a message posted to the university's website, said Wednesday he was "sorry that members of our community were subjected to such a vile, violent and threatening attack."

Hatch said about 500 Wake Forest staff members were on a Zoom call Wednesday organized by the university's Staff Advisory Council when unidentified hackers disrupted it. Hatch said organizers shut down the meeting and restarted it, but the hackers gained access to that meeting as well and continued their attack.

Hatch said the university's information technology staff is trying to track down the origin of the attack. He said it appears that the hackers gained access to the meeting from a link posted publicly online that also contained the meeting's password.

"This was a traumatizing experience for many on the call, especially our Black colleagues, and it reinforces that we all have a role to play in protecting each other and our community from those who would seek to force their hatred upon us," Hatch wrote.

This is the second time in less than a year that Wake Forest has been the target of a substantial online assault.

In September, 12 Wake Forest professors and staff members got racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic emails that called for the purging of ethnic and sexual minorities. The Wake Forest employees who got the emails worked in the university's sociology and gender studies departments and in offices and centers that work on diversity initiatives.

Reports of attacks launched during online meetings surfaced in March shortly after universities moved classes online. These attacks were dubbed "Zoombombings" after the popular video conferencing program.

Media reports have said several businesses and other universities, including the University of Southern California and the University of Florida, have had online meetings disrupted recently by racist language and pornography. Some U.S. school districts have banned the use of Zoom over security concerns.

Contact John Newsom at (336) 373-7312 and follow @JohnNewsomNR on Twitter.​

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