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Some districts say no to Zoom over security concerns

April 6, 2020
The FBI has warned that classes and teleconferences using the online platform could be "hijacked."

Some school districts have banned the use of the Zoom teleconferencing platform for online learning from home because of security concerns, and others are reassessing how and whether to use the program.

The Washington Post reports that days the FBI issued a warning about the “hijacking” of online classrooms and teleconferences, the New York City Department of Education said teachers should no longer use Zoom and should instead work through Microsoft Teams.

Other school districts have banned Zoom or are trying to beef up security around its use. The Clark County (Nev.) district says it has decided to “disable access to Zoom out of an abundance of caution due to instances of hacking that created unsafe environments for teachers and students."

Zoom has issued a statement about security concerns

"During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are working around-the-clock to ensure that hospitals, universities, schools, and other organizations across the world can stay connected and operational. As more and new kinds of users start using Zoom during this time, Zoom has been proactively engaging to make sure they understand Zoom’s relevant policies, as well as the best ways to use the platform and protect their meetings. We have encouraged our education users in particular to follow the guidance contained here — and we recently updated the default settings for education users enrolled in our K-12 program to enable waiting rooms and ensure teachers are the only ones who can share content in class by default."

Related: Video from Zoom: How to Stop "Zoombombing."

The FBI issued a warning earlier this week 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. It said saboteurs were hacking into online meetings in a phenomenon now called “Zoombombing,” because Zoom has become the most popular teleconferencing choice for K-12 schools and colleges and universities during the pandemic.

Concerns about online security have been rising as most of the nation has moved to online education, with school buildings closed to try to stem the spread of the  coronavirus.

There have been numerous reports of intruders disrupting classes and school meetings, from elementary school to higher education. For example, University of Florida President W. Kent Fuchs reported an intrusion of a student government meeting by someone who displayed racist messages, swastikas, pornography and death threats.

The Alpine (Utah) School District is reassessing the use of Zoom after a phone call with elementary school teachers was disrupted with a display of pornography.

On social media, some people have posted videos of classes they have hacked, and putting out calls for students to provide information on when classes are being held and how to log in.

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