Teaching via Zoom has been dropped by a New Jersey school district after a lesson was disrupted by a malicious hacker.
In a Zoom-bombing incident that lasted around 15 seconds, a hacker gained access to an online school lesson being taught to middle school students in Burlington County. The hacker then proceeded to expose the children, their teacher, and the lesson’s co-host to foul racist language and pornographic images.
The hacker’s Zoom session was ended by the teacher and their co-host immediately after the incident took place, and the school district’s administration was alerted.
Lumberton Township Public Schools in Burlington County announced on Monday that use of the video conferencing app as a distance learning aid would be halted while an investigation into the security breach took place.
Superintendent Joe Langowski wrote: “We have worked tirelessly to develop a superior educational experience for the children of Lumberton in these most difficult times, but as always, the safety of our children is paramount. Therefore, we will be suspending the use of Zoom temporarily while we determine if it can continue to be used safely for our students.”
Use of Zoom as a teaching aid has increased rapidly in recent weeks as schools across America were ordered to close to slow the spread of COVID-19. As the video conferencing app has gained in popularity, the number of Zoom-bombing cyber-attacks in which video conferences are deliberately disrupted by malicious hackers has shot up.
The increase in Zoom-bombing has been so significant that last month it prompted a security warning from the Boston Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In an alert issued on March 30, the FBI stated: “As large numbers of people turn to video-teleconferencing (VTC) platforms to stay connected in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, reports of VTC hijacking (also called “Zoom-bombing”) are emerging nationwide. The FBI has received multiple reports of conferences being disrupted by pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language.”
The warning came after a Massachusetts high school reported that an unidentified individual dialed into a virtual lesson being taught on Zoom, yelled a profanity, and then shouted the teacher’s home address.