‘Zoombombers’ using porn to disrupt online classes as young as kindergarten across US

Online learning is in full swing as students across the U.S. return to class during the coronavirus pandemic. Navigating this new normal has come with challenges, however, amid reports of hackers hijacking virtual lessons to troll students with illicit images, messages and threats. “While we were waiting for everything to […]

Online learning is in full swing as students across the U.S. return to class during the coronavirus pandemic.

Navigating this new normal has come with challenges, however, amid reports of hackers hijacking virtual lessons to troll students with illicit images, messages and threats.

“While we were waiting for everything to start, all of a sudden it began,” Ariela Colon of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, said of the moment her daughter’s kindergarten orientation was “Zoombombed” on Thursday. She told WYOU-TV they heard a man’s voice using racial slurs and cursing.

“Then they started messaging us in the chat saying that he was going to rape our children and dropping the F bomb and talking about Mexicans,” Colon told the news station. “My daughter was like, ‘What’s going on mom? Why is my school doing that?’ I had to send her away.”

Schools have seen increased instances of “Zoombombing,” which occurs when hackers take over the Zoom conferencing platform and display unwanted and oftentimes inappropriate images.

Profanity and porn: NC schools grapple with ‘Zoombombers’ and hackers first week back

Students at a middle school in Columbus, Georgia, suffered a similar experience on Wednesday when their social studies lesson suddenly became a skin flick, according to district officials. A parent of one of the students said his daughter saw what looked like “the exorcist’s face” before their feed was flooded with inappropriate images.

“[She] thought someone was just playing a joke, trying to scare her,” parent Mitch Zamora told WTVM 9. “But then, she heard a foreign language and saw a picture of a naked woman’s body and her bottom part.”

Muscogee County School District officials said they’re aware of the incident.

“This incident is under investigation and we will implement additional safety protocols to ensure we continue to provide a safe learning environment with minimal disruptions,” the district said in a statement. “We encourage parents to connect with their students about safe practices during virtual learning: Do not share personal information, login credentials or passwords.”

Leaders with the San Leandro Unified School District in California said they are stepping up security for distance learning after students there were also bombarded with pornographic images, according to the East Bay Times. Local authorities said the incident happened Monday during a fifth-grade physical education class at McKinley Elementary School.

“We don’t have a lot of information as to what happened,” San Leandro police Lt. Ted Henderson told the newspaper. “But we are working with the school district to resolve the issue.”

FBI wants your help finding hackers who are bombarding Zoom meetings with child porn

Reports of “Zoombombing” have become more frequent as students log on for classes each day, causing concern among parents about the safety of online learning. Charles Kicklighter of the Georgia Cyber Crimes Center told WTVM 9 he’s seen these hackings double since last year and that kids are more at risk.

“There is an increase in cyber tips involving children,” Kicklighter said, according to the news station. He added that the switch to virtual learning has “widened the pool for predators looking for children. It gives them a wider hunting ground.”

Federal officials have gotten involved and are working to tamp down on “Zoombombing,” McClatchy News previously reported. To best protect your online lessons and meetings, the FBI urges users to make their meetings private and avoid publicly sharing links to their teleconference.

Earlier this year, Zoom also released a guide explaining how to restrict access to online meetings.

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