EASTHAMPTON, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The remote school year has just begun, and one district has already reported instances of Zoom hacking. Easthampton High School said both yesterday and the day before, people from outside the school community accessed Zoom classes.
No one would let a stranger into a high school classroom, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, Easthampton High School’s remote classes have been held over Zoom. Instead of pushing through locked doors, all recent interlopers needed the Zoom link and the name of an Easthampton High School student.
"There are lots of ways to find names of students through the internet," said Easthampton High School Principal William Evans.
Evans told Western Mass News fewer than ten of their Zoom classes were hacked by people he believes are not part of the Easthampton community, using real student names to get through virtual waiting rooms.
"Sometimes the names of people who are in the class and sometimes names of people that are not in the class, but are students," Evans explained.
According to the principal, the Zoom hackers were able to say inappropriate things and show inappropriate images before the teachers could shut them out of the meeting.
"That’s what they do, they’re trolls," he said.
Evans also said, in one instance, he was in a Zoom class that was invaded the day before, trying to comfort students about the incident, when a hacker used a student’s name [and] revealed himself right then and there.
"They had identified themselves with a female name, and it was some dude with this big beard," he said. "He was not one of our students."
Evans told us the district is investigating these hacks. Western Mass News spoke to a service technician, Anthony Russell-Smith, from Northampton's YES Computers, who said in many cases, video-chat companies do keep digital receipts of who is using their technology.
"In a system of this nature, most of them do have a log, a record of all of the participants of the meeting and that information would be stored," Russell-Smith said.
In a letter sent home to parents, Evans said students caught sharing Zoom links could face punishment from the school, and also said teachers are now taking precautions, and not letting users with accurate student names into a meeting if they’re not on the class roster.
"If there’s a strange spelling or anything that raises their concern, they’re not let in," he said. "Secondly, when a student is let in, they now immediately have to identify themselves, show themselves on camera, say something."
A new kind of roll-call for keeping strangers out, when the classroom before you is virtual.
"I don’t get it. I don’t know why anybody would do, but they do it," Evans added.