Fed’s Waller virtual event canceled after Zoom ‘hijack’

(Reuters) – A virtual event on Thursday that was to feature a speech as well as a question-and-answer session with Federal Reserve Governor Christopher Waller was canceled after it was “hijacked” and a participant began displaying pornographic images.

“We were a victim of a teleconference or Zoom hijacking and we are trying to understand what we need to do going forward to prevent this from ever happening again. It is an incident we deeply regret,” said Brent Tjarks, executive director of the Mid-Size Bank Coalition of America, which hosted the event via a Zoom link. “We have had various programs and this is something that we have never had happen to us.”

He said that he suspects one of the security switches that mutes those watching an event was set incorrectly, but he was not yet sure of the details. The decision to cancel was made in consultation with the Fed after the intrusion. 

A few minutes before the event was to start, one participant using the screen name “Dan” began displaying graphic, pornographic images, according to a Reuters reporter on the call.

Microphones and video were not muted by the organizer upon joining.

More than 220 participants were on the Zoom call at one point before it was terminated. Two spokeswomen for Zoom did not immediately return calls requesting comment. 

The Fed said the event was canceled due to “technical difficulties.”

Fed events are typically highly choreographed and security is usually tight.

MBCA’s roughly 100 members include banks with between $10 billion and $100 billion in assets.

(Reporting by Ann Saphir and Howard Schneider; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Sandra Maler)