FBI issues warning about ‘hijacking’ of online classes by intruders after schools report serious disruptions

Annalisa D’Aguilar, 18, is a senior at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York. MUST CREDIT: Aisha D’Aguilar. via The Washington Post

The FBI just issued a warning to the public about the “hijacking” of online classrooms and teleconferences after it received reports of disturbances by people shouting racist and threatening language and displaying hate messages.

Concerns about online security have been rising as most of the nation has moved to online education as school buildings have closed to try to stem the spread of a novel coronavirus that has stopped public life around the world. Schools have rushed to put together online lessons and programs, sometimes without strict security filters.

The FBI said in its new warning that it has received multiple reports of conferences being disrupted by pornographic images and other things, while two schools in Massachusetts reported intruders signing into online classes.

In one instance, a high school reported that an unidentified person dialed into a class being held on the Zoom software and broke into a lesson by yelling a profanity and shouting the teacher’s home address. At another school, an online class with disrupted by someone who was visibly displaying tattoos of swastikas.

Last week, saboteurs using “racist and vile language” infiltrated and disrupted online classes held by the University of Southern California in a trend some have dubbed “Zoombombing.” It is the intentional disruption of a class or conference on the Zoom teleconference platform. Zoom has emerged as the most popular teleconferencing choice for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education during the pandemic.

The University of Texas at Austin is investigating a racist incident in which someone disrupted an online meeting on Zoom among students, staff and faculty, President Greg Fenves said. It occurred during the first Zoom meeting for the school’s Heman Sweatt Center for Black Males.

Fenves denounced the “reprehensible” and “racist Zoom bombing” of a meeting and said he will increase online security for all staff.

 

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