Hacker sabotages Brecksville-Broadview Heights school board Zoom meeting with child porn; federal and local authorities investigating

Hacker sabotages Brecksville-Broadview Heights school board Zoom meeting with child porn; federal and local authorities investigating
Brecksville Broadview Heights School District, file photo (Source: BBS Facebook page)

BRECKSVILLE, Ohio (WOIO) - A Brecksville Broadview Heights school board Zoom meeting was taken over by a hacker, who exposed parents, students and residents to child pornography on Thursday night.

The incident is referred to as “Zoom-bombing," which occurs when someone takes over and sabotages a video conference meeting.

An unknown number of participants took screenshots of the underage sexual acts as they were being displayed, and shared the images on social media, which is a felony crime in and of itself, according to school officials.

Hacker sabotages Brecksville-Broadview Heights school board Zoom meeting with child porn

Federal, state and local authorities have been contacted, and are working the case.

The following letter, written by Superintendent Joelle Magyar, was sent to parents and discussed the details of the obscene crime:

Dear Brecksville-Broadview Heights City Schools Community,

I write with an urgent and important message regarding an incident that occurred at tonight's Special Meeting of the Board of Education which was conducted virtually using the Zoom video conference system and open to members of the public. During the final question of the hour-long meeting, the live video stream was hacked and explicit child pornography was displayed on-screen for several seconds. The Board of Education and District administration moved quickly to terminate the virtual meeting. The District places the highest priority on ensuring the safety and security of our students and the entire BBHCSD community and immediately began taking all measures possible to confront this most egregious, illegal and highly heinous action.

The BBHCSD will neither tolerate such a reprehensible exploitation of children, nor such a blatant attack on our public meeting. We immediately engaged local, county, statewide and federal officials who have already launched their investigation to track down IP addresses of meeting participants. Zoom has been contacted. Participants in the meeting were required to register, use password security and wait in a waiting room until it began. We will find the individuals who selfishly, disgracefully and in the vilest manner possible exploited children and attempted to sabotage our meeting. It has also been brought to the attention of the District that screenshots of the explicit sexual acts involving a minor have been shared on social media. Please be advised that sharing child pornography is illegal and considered a felony. The police departments will prosecute any persons who have shared the illegal electronic images. If you have any information regarding this incident, please contact the District, or the Brecksville or Broadview Heights Police Departments.

The District will continue to keep the community updated on this matter as we work with local, county, state and federal authorities to ensure that the individual(s) responsible for this violation of privacy, child protective laws and our community's safety are prosecuted to the fullest extent. Pursuit of additional online security measures is already underway for alternative video conference platforms. In the near term, we will require teachers to cease from using the Zoom platform as we identify different secure options. Once again, the BBHCSD greatly values the safety and well being of our school community and has mobilized all resources to identify and prosecute those involved.

We sincerely apologize for any harm or distress this incident has caused for those who attended tonight’s Board Meeting. Thank you for your continued support of the Brecksville-Broadview Heights City Schools.

Zoom answered our request for a statement regarding the incident, calling it “truly devastating and appalling”:

“This incident is truly devastating and appalling, and our user policies explicitly prohibit any obscene, indecent, illegal or violent activity or content on the platform. We are looking into this specific incident to ensure the appropriate action is taken. Zoom strongly condemns such behavior and recently updated several features to help our users more easily protect their meetings. We have enabled meeting passwords and virtual waiting rooms by default for users enrolled in our K-12 school program, as well as our Free Basic and Single Pro users. For users enrolled in our K-12 program, we have also updated the default screen share settings to ensure teachers are the only ones who can share content in class. For all users, we have made the Zoom Meeting ID less visible to help prevent unintended sharing, and we have added a new Security icon to the Zoom meeting controls for all hosts to help them quickly access in-meeting security features, including the ability to remove participants and lock meetings, among other actions. In the latest version of Zoom, there is a new ‘Report a User’ feature in the Security icon for meeting hosts and co-hosts to flag users, who are misusing the platform, to our Trust & Safety team. We encourage users to report any incidents of this kind either to Zoom so we can take appropriate action or directly to law enforcement authorities.”

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