By John Geddie
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore has suspended the use of video-conferencing tool Zoom by teachers after “very serious incidents” in the first week of a coronavirus lockdown that has seen schools move to home-based learning.
One incident involved obscene images appearing on screens and strange men making lewd comments during the streaming of a geography lesson with teenage girls, media said.
Zoom Video Communications Inc (ZM.O) has faced safety and privacy concerns over its conferencing app, use of which has surged in offices and schools worldwide after they shut to try and curb virus infections.
“These are very serious incidents,” Aaron Loh of the education ministry’s technology division said on Friday, without giving details.
“The Ministry of Education (MOE) is currently investigating both breaches and will lodge a police report if warranted.
“As a precautionary measure, our teachers will suspend their use of Zoom until these security issues are ironed out.”
Loh said they ministry would further advise teachers on security protocols, such as requiring secure log-ins and not sharing the meeting link beyond the students in the class.
Zoom was deeply upset to hear about the incidents and was “committed to providing educators with the tools and resources they need on a safe and secure platform”, the firm’s chief marketing officer, Janine Pelosi, said in an email.
It has also recently changed settings for education users to enable virtual waiting rooms and ensure that only hosts can share their screens by default, she added.
Taiwan and Germany have already curbed use of Zoom, while Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google banned the desktop version from corporate laptops this week. The company also faces a class-action lawsuit.
Concerns have grown over its lack of end-to-end encryption of meeting sessions, routing of traffic through China and “zoombombing”, when uninvited guests crash meetings.
Officials at Berkeley High School in California said they suspended use of the app after a “naked adult male using racial slurs” intruded on what the school said was a password-protected meeting on Zoom, in a letter to parents seen by Reuters.
To address security concerns, Zoom has launched a 90-day plan to bolster privacy and security issues, and has also tapped former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos as an adviser.
The Singapore government has also been using the tool to host media conferences.
(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.)
Reporting by John Geddie; Editing by Michael Perry and Clarence Fernandez