Zoom class hijacked, ‘inappropriate materials’ shared with students

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Lamar Elementary School principal Erin Honeycutt sets up a “Zoom” class for first through fifth graders to learn art from Holly Triplett in Meridian, Miss., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. The COVID-19 and coronavirus has forced area schools to close and use technology for online teaching and learning. At this time Lamar is closed until April 13th and will then re-evaluate as to continue their closure. (Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star via AP)

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Zoom meeting between a local private school teacher and her students was hijacked by someone who shared inappropriate materials with the class, 10 On Your Side has confirmed.

Many teachers have switched to digital instruction in response to schools shutting down during the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Northam announced that all schools in Virginia would remain closed for the rest of the school year. But learning has continued, just virtually.

A tool that is often used by the schools is Zoom. Zoom is a cloud-based teleconferencing program that allows video and audio meetings between multiple users.

10 On Your Side obtained an email sent from Norfolk Collegiate to parents on Monday confirming that a teacher was using Zoom to host a class when an “uninvited participant” joined the meeting and shared inappropriate material with the students.

“These incidents have appeared recently in a variety of Zoom meeting settings across the country; however, we are doing what we can to try and stay in front of people who are trying to take advantage of the nation’s current need to switch to primarily digital learning spaces,” the email stated.

At the time of publication, Norfolk Collegiate had not responded to 10 On Your Side’s request for comment on the issue; however, the email said that Norfolk Collegiate faculty have been instructed to use appropriate privacy settings when hosting classes on Zoom, including password protecting meetings and disabling screen sharing. Students have also been instructed not to share Zoom class links and passwords with anyone.

The issue ofparty crashersisn’t a new one for Zoom users, according to the company and FBI Norfolk. The FBI has received reports from people across the United States about video-teleconferencing hijacking — or “Zoom bombing.”

“Zoom bombing” happens when a teleconference meeting is disrupted by an unintended user who shares pornographic or “hate” images and threatening language, according to FBI Norfolk.

Zoom offers many ways to secure the privacy of virtual meetings, including allowing hosts to lock meetings, make them password protected, disable screen sharing, and remove unwanted and disruptive participants.

The FBI recommends the following to protect your cybersecurity:

  • Do not make meetings or classrooms public
  • Do not share a link to a teleconference or classroom on social media
  • Manage screen sharing options
  • Use the updated version of any remote meeting application — including the newest version of Zoom, which was updated in January
  • Ensure the organization’s telework policy addresses requirements for physical and information security

Victims of teleconference hijacking or other cyber crimes should report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. If you receive a specific threat during a teleconference, report it to the FBI online or at (800) CALL-FBI.


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