Amidst mounting privacy concerns and reports of trolls attacks, Singapore has temporarily banned teachers from employing the video-conferencing tool Zoom, Reuters reports. The country’s Ministry of Education also announced Friday that it’s launching inquiries into several “very serious incidents” wherein students were reportedly exposed to obscene images and comments during livestreamed lessons – a practice known as “Zoom bombing” that’s plagued the company as the Covid-19 outbreak pushes an increasing number of people to remote working and learning.
“MOE (Ministry of Education) is currently investigating both breaches and will lodge a police report if warranted,” said Aaron Loh of the department’s educational technology division, per Reuters.
He did not go into specifics about these incidents, but one saw several strange men crashing a virtual geography lesson with obscene images and making lude comments at the teenage students, according to local media reports. Loh said that Singapore’s teachers will be banned from using Zoom “until these security issues are ironed out”.
When reached for comment via email, a Zoom spokesperson provided the following response regarding these “meeting disruptors” in general:
“We have been deeply upset by increasing reports of harassment on our platform and strongly condemn such behaviour. We are listening to our community of users to help us evolve our approach and help our users guard against these attacks.”
The statement goes on to highlight some of the common-sense security precautions Zoom has adopted in recent weeks. These include making waiting rooms and password-requirements for virtual conference rooms enabled by default, adding a “Security” menu, and removing a meeting’s Zoom ID (a tag commonly spread among trolls as part of coordinated attacks) from the title toolbar.
Singapore’s ban is only the latest in a series of restrictions and precautions lawmakers worldwide have taken against the video conferencing company. On Monday, New York City issued a similar Zoom ban among its classrooms citing widespread cybersecurity concerns that Zoom shareholders have since sued over – including a lack of end-to-end encryption despite the company previously claiming to feature it. Officials in Taiwan and Germany have also restricted how government employees use Zoom, and this week Google barred the desktop version from company laptops.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Zoom shareholders allege that the company’s lack of adequate security measures puts users “at an increased risk of having their personal information accessed by unauthorized parties, including Facebook”. The suit goes on to argue that the Covid-19 outbreak only exacerbated Zoom’s security problems, as an increasing reliance on telecommuting and virtual classrooms worldwide ballooned its userbase from 10 million to 200 million in just a few months.
Featured photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP (Getty Images)