Singapore has banned the use of the video-conferencing software, Zoom after "very serious incidents" were reported in the first week of a countrywide lockdown that has forced schools to shift to home-based learning.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently announced a month-long lockdown after a surge in coronavirus, ordering the closure of all businesses deemed non-essential, including schools, and asking people to stay home.
Singapore bans Zoom usage by teachers
However, Singapore's Ministry of Education has suspended the use of video-conferencing tool Zoom by teachers. The ban comes after local media outlets reported a series of breaches that had occurred on the platform. These incidents involved obscene content appearing on screens and male strangers writing lewd comments during a Zoom call with teenage girls.
"These are very serious incidents. MOE (Ministry of Education) is currently investigating both breaches and will lodge a police report if warranted," said Aaron Loh of the Singapore's ministry educational technology division.
"As a precautionary measure, our teachers will suspend their use of Zoom until these security issues are ironed out," he noted, before advising teachers to follow security protocols and not sharing the meeting link with anyone except the students in the class.
One mother told Channel News Asia that, during her daughter's online geography class, obscene images appeared on the screen, before two men asked the first-year secondary school girls to "flash" themselves.
There were about 39 children in the class when the stream was hacked into by "two Caucasian men," prompting the teacher to end the class immediately. "Home-based learning is supposed to be a safe space," one parent told the Straits Times. "I know it's difficult to manage but as a parent, I feel very concerned."
It remains to be known how the hackers gained access to the stream. Zoom calls have nine-digit IDs and can, in theory, be joined by any user if they're not protected by the call's host. This isn't the first time an online class has been interrupted by unwanted guests. Officials at Berkeley High School in California suspended use of Zoom after a "naked adult male using racial slurs" intruded on what the school said was a password-protected video conference on Zoom.
Zoom's security issues
Private companies around the world, including Google and SpaceX, as well as national governments have banned the use of the video-calling tool due to similar security concerns. Not only has Zoom been banned in workplaces around the world, but the company is also facing multiple lawsuits over its security flaws.
"Zoombombing" has also become a common occurrence on the platform due to its lack of end-to-end encryption during live sessions, which allows unwanted strangers hijack Zoom calls and disrupt meetings. The dangerous trend prompted the US Department of Justice to declare it as a federal offence that is punishable by imprisonment, as previously reported.
What did Zoom say?
Zoom's chief marketing officer released a statement saying she was "deeply upset" to hear about the incidents in Singapore and was "committed to providing educators with the tools and resources they need on a safe and secure platform." Additionally, the company recently announced it has launched a 90-day plan to take care of the privacy and security issues, and have also roped in former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos to help them out.