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KHSD, wary of digital hijackers, moves away from Zoom online classrooms

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Lamar Elementary School principal Erin Honeycutt sets up a “Zoom” class for first through fifth graders to learn art from Holly Triplett in Meridian, Miss., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. The COVID-19 and coronavirus has forced area schools to close and use technology for online teaching and learning. At this time Lamar is closed until April 13th and will then re-evaluate as to continue their closure. (Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star via AP)

The Kern High School District has asked teachers to pull the plug on Zoom.

The online platform for digital meetings, used by thousands of school districts across the country to connect teachers to their students, has serious security concerns.

The app has surged in popularity amid stay-at-home orders prompted by the coronavirus outbreak.

But Zoom conferences, it turns out, are vulnerable to hacking — and a new term, zoom-bombing, has surfaced to describe the hijacking of these meetings by outsiders, some with ill intent.

In fact this week the FBI’s field office in Boston said it would investigate reports of Zoom meetings being disrupted by pornographic and/or hate images, and threatening language.

That vulnerability helped convince KHSD leaders to ban Zoom for all online distance learning, district spokeswoman Erin Briscoe just told 17 News.

Teachers have been asked to switch to Google Hangout or another meeting platform.

Just this afternoon, Zoom announced that starting April 5, as a security enhancement, it will start enabling passwords for all online meetings. But the move apparently comes a day too late for Zoom to keep the KHSD as a client.

Kern Superintendent of Schools Chief Technology Officer Anthony Davis recently warned school districts across the county about Zoom’s shortcomings, noting that SpaceX, the Hawthorne-based private space company with an important presence in east Kern, recently stopped used Zoom for online conferencing.

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