Muscogee County School District students witness pornographic material during Zoom-bombing

Updated: Aug. 27, 2020 at 7:38 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Roughly 20 Veterans Memorial Middle School students who were doing virtual learning Wednesday morning were “Zoom-bombed.”

A father of a seventh-grade student at Veterans Memorial Middle School, Mitch Zamora, said his daughter fell victim to a “Zoom bombing” incident, along with a handful of other children in her social studies class.

“It happened around 10:20ish in her social studies class. She said she saw what looked like the exorcist’s face and thought someone was just playing a joke, trying to scare her. But then, she heard a foreign language and saw a picture of a naked woman’s body and her bottom part,” Zamora said.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation Cyber Crimes Center is calling these incidents “Zoom bombing,” which is when someone hacks or enters a virtual Zoom meeting without permission and says or does inappropriate and often, sexual things.

According to Charles Kicklighter, assistant special agent at the Charge Georgia Cyber Crimes Center, reports of these incidents have nearly doubled compared to this time last year.

“There is an increase in cyber tips involving children,” Kicklighter said. “You can’t say it’s all because of COVID, but it is certainly a factor.”

With all students within the district doing online virtual learning due to the pandemic, Kicklighter said children are certainly more at risk, now more than ever.

“That widens the pool for predators looking for children. It gives them a wider hunting ground,” he said.

The Muscogee County School district released this statement acknowledging the incident:

“The District is aware of a recent incident where inappropriate content was shared to a class via Zoom. 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. We encourage parents to connect with their students about safe practices during virtual learning: do not share personal information, login credentials, or passwords.”

But what can parents do in the meantime to protect their children?

“Make sure you are using the most updated version,” Kicklighter said. “Make sure your system settings are up to date because attackers look for vulnerabilities and weaknesses in computers because that allows them to get in.”

Zoom bombing can carry some stiff punishments if sexual material is shared to underage minors. The penalty can be anywhere from 5 to 20 years in prison if someone is convicted.

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