In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, when the schools and colleges are conducting online classes, teachers and students are troubled by hackers who sneak into online classrooms, often displaying vulgar content on the screens.

A prominent school in Kolkata ditched online classes after hackers sneaked into several lectures and displayed obscene videos on the screen and threatened the students and teachers. 

A parent told Outlook that the hackers used abusive language and threatened students with rape and murder. As a result, teachers had to suspend the online classes.

The Coronavirus-induced lockdown has left schools and colleges with no other option but to conduct online classes. But with educational institutes going online, the risks and vulnerabilities have increased accordingly. 

Earlier this month, the Karnataka government issued an order banning online classes up to Class 5. According to the order, schools affiliated to different boards, including ICSE, CBSE, state boards and international boards, were directed to stop holding online classes for students from Kindergarten to Class 5.

In April, hackers hacked into an online Geography class of a school in Singapore who were using a video-conferencing app. The hackers disrupted the class and displayed on screens obscene images. After this incident, Singapore’s Ministry of Education announced that the schools would suspend their use of the particular online for the purpose of holding online classes. 

The National Commission for Women (NCW) in April wrote to Gujarat Director General of Police after a hacker breached into an online class of a university and started masturbating. 

Such incidents are not one-off in nature. In Bengaluru, principal of a private school filed a complaint with the Criminal Investigation Department after a hacker hacked into the Class 7 online classes and used vulgar language against students.

Several private schools in Kolkata last week said they have asked their teachers and students to avoid using the Zoom app for online classes or meetings, a fortnight after the ICSE schools’ forum in the state urged them to conduct sessions on the platform. The Centre had issued an advisory, flagging the video-conferencing software as unsafe and vulnerable to cyber-crimes.

Nabarun Dey, the general secretary of the Association of Head of ICSE Schools (Bengal Chapter), said, “We have come to know that inappropriate messages pop up during demonstrations, following which we cautioned the schools against the use of the Zoom application.” He also noted that most schools have complied with the directive and shifted their session to another platform.

As these incidents continue unabated, many schools in Delhi have shifted to other video-conferencing apps. Kanika Sachdeva Govi, Vice Principal, Delhi Public School Rohini says, “During some online classes, anonymous persons used abusive language in messages and and teachers were unable to figure out or identify the person behind it.”

While the schools have shifted to other platforms for online classes, the privacy and safety concerns remain unaddressed.

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