Singapore Suspends Classroom Zoom Use After ‘Serious Incidents’

Singapore’s education ministry has suspended teachers’ use of the Zoom videoconferencing tool following “very serious incidents” of disruption.

The incidents occurred during the first week of a coronavirus lockdown that has forced schools to move to home-based learning.

Zoom said it was “deeply upset” by the incidents and was instituting further security measures.

One involved obscene images appearing on screens and Caucasian men making lewd comments during a geography lesson with tennaged girls, local media reports said.

Image credit: World Health Organisation

Disruption

The conferencing tech from Zoom Video Communications has seen a spike in usage since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, rising from a previous high of 10 million daily users to more than 200 million per day.

The increased focus on Zoom and its technology has led to disruptive episodes and to criticism of the company over its security and privacy shortcomings.

“These are very serious incidents,” said the Aaron Loh of the ministry’s educational technology division.  “MOE (Ministry of Education) is currently investigating both breaches and will lodge a police report if warranted.

“As a precautionary measure, our teachers will suspend their use of Zoom until these security issues are ironed out.”

He said teachers would be advised on methods for improving security by requiring secure log-ins and not sharing the meeting link beyond the students in each class.

The incidents come after Berkeley High School in California suspended its use of Zoom after an adult male intruded on what the school said was a password-protected Zoom meeting.

Class-action lawsuit

Countries including Taiwan and Germany have put broad restrictions on the use of Zoom, while Google last week banned the desktop version of the app from corporate laptops.

Last week the US Senate advised senators not to use Zoom due to security concerns.  The company also faces a class-action lawsuit over its security practices, with concerns including sending data through servers in China and the lack of end-to-end encryption.

In response, Zoom recently said it was freezing the app’s existing features and would devote 90 days solely to improving security.

The company has also brought in former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos as an adviser.

“We have been deeply upset to hear about these types of incidents,” Zoom said in a statement.

“Zoom strongly condemns such behaviour and we encourage users to report any incidents of this kind directly to Zoom so we can take appropriate action.”

The company said it had changed default settings to enable waiting rooms and ensure only hosts can share their screens.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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