Educators in the Edmonds School District are scrambling after hackers broke into a virtual classroom and started posting racist messages to students.
Like so many schools across Washington, in-person classes may not be happening this fall at Mountlake Terrace High School.
Yet, as students and faculty suddenly discovered, virtual learning isn’t immune from threats.
On Sept. 15, students in a videography class were exposed to racist attacks.
Without warning, a hacker gained access to the Zoom session and started messaging students the “n-word.”
The incident shook even the most senior of educators at the Edmonds School District.
“We’ll learn from it, and we’ll take steps to address it, and we’ll try to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said Assistant Superintendent Greg Schwab.
KIRO 7 discovered cases of hacking against online classes are occurring more often.
In August, a similar hacking incident happened in Tacoma.
Additionally, hacking cases involving racism have been reported everywhere from Texas to New York as thousands of school districts make the switch to remote learning.
“With that rush will come increased cyber risks for schools and for their students and families,” said cybersecurity expert Patrick Thielen.
In the aftermath of what happened at Mountlake Terrace High School, KIRO 7 learned changes are already happening within the Edmonds School District.
This school year, teachers started using Zoom waiting rooms to screen those trying to enter remote-learning classes.
Additionally, only people with school email addresses will be allowed to enter Zoom meetings.
“We had been working on (extra security) for a while, and (the recent hacking) just sped it up because we know it’s another measure we need to have in place,” said Schwab, adding that communication with other school districts about the threats they’ve faced has also been essential.
Regarding the class that was hacked Sept. 15, Edmonds School District administrators said a technology specialist will be present all week — should something go wrong again.