Singapore has suspended the use of video-conferencing tool Zoom by its tutors, after a “very serious incident” during a home-based lesson.

Singapore shut its schools on Wednesday in answer to a growing number of coronavirus cases.

But one mother told local media that, through her daughter’s geography lesson, indecent images appeared on screen, before two men questioned girls to “flash”.

Zoom said that the company was “intensely upset” about the incidents.

Zoom lately changed its default settings for home-based learning, and distributed a guide for teachers to protect their “virtual classrooms”.

What happened in the classroom?

Parents told local media the cases happened in a geography class for first-year secondary school pupils.

Almost 39 children were in the class when the stream was hacked, before “two Caucasian men” emerged and made vulgar comments. The class was stopped instantly.

“Home-based learning is thought to be a safe space,” one parent told the Straits Times. “I know it’s difficult to handle but as a parent I feel very worried.”

It’s not known how the hackers got access. Zoom meetings have nine-digit IDs and can, in theory, be joined by any user if they are not secured by the organizer.

How did the government respond?

These are very serious events,” said Aaron Loh of the government’s educational technology division.

“The Ministry of Education is presently investigating both breaches and will register a police report if warranted.

“As a preventive measure, our teachers will stop their use of Zoom until these security issues are cleared up.”

Mr Loh said the government had “spelt out to all our teachers the security measures they must obey to”, including secure log-ins.

What did Zoom say?

“We have been deeply upset to hear about these kinds of incidents,” a spokesperson said.

“Zoom strongly denounces such behaviour and we urge users to report any incidents of this kind straight to Zoom so we can take suitable action.”

The company said it had “changed default settings”, to “allow virtual waiting rooms and ensure only hosts can share their screens by default”.

It has also established a guide for setting up and safeguarding virtual classrooms.

Is this the first time Zoom has been seized?

Zoom is a video conferencing tool that the public started to use in 2013.

But after the Covid-19 pandemic has initiated lockdown around the world, usage of Zoom has ” increased overnight”, the company lately said.

Till last year, its highest number of daily users was 10 million. In March this year, it extended to more than 200m daily users.

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Zoom, The Video Conferencing App, Faces Inquiries Over Privacy

But a video conference at a US school was recently disturbed by racist remarks, and a local government meeting in Pennsylvania was aimed with pornography.

In response to the alleged “Zoom-bombing”, the company said: “The first rule of Zoom Club: don’t give up control of your screen.

“You do not want unknown people in your public event taking control of the screen and sharing unwelcome content with the group.”

More lately, the company said it would spend 90 days ” devoting the resources needed to better identify, address, and correct issues proactively”.


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