Schools across the nation struggling to adapt their students’ learning experience to an online model are hitting a huge and disturbing snag: “Zoom bombing.”
As we reported last month, several schools were hit by individuals catching onto the new trend of hacking into virtual classes and meetings conducted on Zoom, a video conferencing app, exposing children of all ages to profanity and pornography.
According to The Mercury News, a so-called “Zoom bomber” hacked into a video conference with students at Berkeley High School in California and exposed himself while shouting obscenities. Superintendent Brent Stephens said the man “obtained the credentials for the meeting and was able to gain access to the session.”
“What was especially troubling about this incident is that it appears that the teacher followed all the current guidance about security precautions in Zoom,” Stephens said in an email to parents in the district.
“You have heard that school district across the country are dealing with issues of ‘Zoom bombing’ in which people join public meetings and say or do inappropriate things,” Stephens told The Mercury News. “We put many controls in place that we had thought would protect our online sessions.”
The FBI warned earlier this month that “multiple reports” of video conference calls interrupted with “pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language” had surfaced.
“In late March 2020, a Massachusetts-based high school reported that while a teacher was conducting an online class using the teleconferencing software Zoom, an unidentified individual(s) dialed into the classroom. The individual yelled a profanity and then shouted the teacher’s home address in the middle of instruction,” the FBI wrote in a press release. “A second Massachusetts-based school reported a Zoom meeting being accessed by an unidentified individual. In this incident, the individual was visible on the video camera and displayed swastika tattoos.”
Orange, Florida mom Alexis Neely told WKMG that “a man came on the screen who was naked and had exposed himself to all the kids” in her 14-year-old son’s Wolf Lake Middle School class.
“He said he didn’t want to talk about it because he just didn’t want to relive the memories or the images,” Neely told the outlet. “Fingers crossed that the other stuff they’re using will be a lot better.”
In some cases, apparent technological ineptitude on the part of school staff has put students at risk.
According to a report from the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland, California school district suffered a massive breach of student privacy after administrators accidentally publicly posted hundreds of access codes and passwords used by teachers and students to log into online classrooms and video conferences.
“The codes allowed anyone with a Gmail account to join the Google Classroom sites set up by teachers across the district, allowing access to students’ full names as well as their comments posted in class. The documents included the time, access codes and passwords for Zoom video conference with teachers and students,” the Chronicle reported, adding that “district officials were unaware of the exposure of the information until The Chronicle notified them of easily found information and access to the sites.”
Folks, we’ve been warning against placing your trust in public schools as safe environments for learning for some time now, but this threat is a different animal altogether.
There has never been a more opportune time to consider evacuating your children from these institutions. School staff are human and prone to mistakes, but we do not need to sacrifice our children’s innocence while they overcome technological learning curves.
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