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Salt Lake school Zoom class hacked with pornography, slurs, police say

By Pat Reavy, Deseret News | Updated - Nov. 23, 2020 at 6:20 p.m. | Posted - Nov. 23, 2020 at 12:21 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — An online class in the Salt Lake City School District was recently interrupted by a hacker who displayed pornographic images and used racist language, according to police.

On Oct. 26, a teacher at Clayton Middle School, 1471 S. 1800 East, was starting to teach her seventh and eighth grade language arts/history class using Zoom. The students joined the class using a link provided to them, according to police.

During the class, one of the attendees in the Zoom meeting changed their background screen to pictures of male genitalia and began yelling derogatory terms, according to a search warrant affidavit. The teacher "immediately ended the meeting, kicking all students out."

The teacher then "restarted the meeting, having each student request entrance," and "then went through each attendee, carefully accepting each one back into the meeting," according to the affidavit.

However, the same person is believed to have rejoined the class and "proceeded to do the same thing as before, putting up the same pornographic image and again yelling the same slurs," the warrant says.

The teacher again ended the class and kicked everyone off the Zoom meeting. She then started the class for a third time and had the principal join in the meeting.

"She again stated that she tried to be as careful as possible to only allow actual students into the meeting. However, an individual in this meeting produced the same pornographic image and again yelled the same slurs as before," according to the affidavit.

The teacher then ended the class for the day.

Salt Lake Police Sgt. Keith Horrocks said Monday that investigators believe a person who was not a student or teacher of that class was able to hack into the Zoom meeting. The IP address used by that person was traced back to California. But detectives weren't sure Monday if the IP address was being "spoofed," so that it appeared like it was coming from somewhere else.

As of Monday, no arrest had been made.

The Salt Lake City School District has held only online classes since the start of the school year.

The district issued a statement late Monday afternoon about what they called the "Zoom bombing" incident.

"This person posed as a student to gain admittance to the class and disrupted the lesson with pornographic images and racial slurs," according to the district.

Since then, the district said teachers have heightened security in their Zoom classrooms by providing a unique link to their meetings rather than reusing their personal meeting room links, not allowing participants to rename themselves, locking the meeting once all students have been admitted, and disabling students' ability to share their screens.

"Because we have so many participants involved in our meetings, it may be impossible to completely eliminate the risk of unauthorized access. However, we can make sure we take every step within our power to keep our students safe during remote learning," the district stated.

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Pat Reavy

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