School Districts Ban Zoom Over Pornographic Hacks, Security Leaks

Photo by Gabriel Benois on Unsplash

School Districts Ban Zoom Over Pornographic Hacks, Security Leaks

By Jessilyn Lancaster, Managing Editor

School districts across the country have banned the use of Zoom, an online video meeting service, due to pornographic hacks and security leaks, also known as “Zoom Bombs.”

Multiple users have reported that while using the service, someone will hack their meeting and draw inappropriate content or share pornographic images and racial slurs with everyone in the meeting.

The Zoom Bombs are especially alarming, given that schools were using the service to conduct online classes. Now, districts are shedding the service, and Zoom stocks are plummeting.

The FBI even issued a warning against using the service to teleconference.

According to Fortune:

Most notably, the New York City Department of Education, which oversees the country’s largest public school system, banned the software outright. The department says schools “should move away from using Zoom as soon as possible,” and will transition to different platforms, including Microsoft Teams.

Clark County Public Schools in Nevada, have also announced they will “disable access to Zoom out of an abundance of caution,” while the Washington Post reports that several other districts are reassessing their use of the tool. This follows the March 28 move by SpaceX to ban the use of Zoom.

Fortune further reports that much of these hacks are a result of participants publicly sharing meeting IDs or failing to password protect meetings.

Still, users are reeling.

In Massachusetts, the FBI reported the following incidents:

  • 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. This individual yelled a profanity and then shouted the teacher’s home address in the middle of instruction.
  • 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.

To avoid the hacks, Zoom issued a detailed user guide.

Still, schools are nervous.

“It’s been a huge lift to get this all going,” one Brooklyn principal, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Chalkbeat. “It’s taking all the work we’ve done and flushing it down the toilet — and you’re going to lose some kids along the way.”

As Chalkbeat reported:

The biggest concern, the principal said, is that the switch will create an additional barrier for students to access remote learning, a hurdle that may disproportionately affect students with disabilities or families with limited fluency with technology.

A second Brooklyn principal echoed that the change will disrupt remote instruction. “If the DOE follows through with this decision, I believe that the impact will be no more live teaching for many teachers,” the principal said, citing the clunkiness of the Microsoft platform. “I am not sure that the DOE and the mayor fully understand the impact of decisions like this.”

Danielle Filson, an education department spokesperson, said the department has already begun training schools to use Microsoft Teams and will continue that process on Monday.

“We will support staff and students in transitioning to different platforms such as Microsoft Teams that have the same capabilities with appropriate security measures in place,” she said.

Districts are hopeful, though, that parents, students and teachers will soon be able to find a way to communicate and continue schooling during the lockdown.

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