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Singapore teachers drop Zoom after online class gatecrashed


Singapore’s teachers have stopped using controversial video-conferencing app Zoom for remote education during the coronavirus lockdown, officials said Friday, after intruders reportedly made lewd comments in a virtual class. The city-state’s schools were closed this week as part of tough curbs to tackle a worsening virus outbreak, but students are still being taught via so-called “home-based learning”.

During a geography lesson involving teenage girls conducted on Zoom, two men intruded into the livestream, showed obscene images and made lewd remarks, Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper reported. Zoom has exploded in popularity as governments worldwide order people to stay home to fight the spread of the virus, but it faces growing security and privacy concerns.

Singapore’s education ministry is investigating the “very serious incidents” and teachers have suspended use of the app while security issues are ironed out, said Aaron Loh, from the ministry’s educational technology division. “We are already working with Zoom to enhance its security settings and make these security measures clear and easy to follow,” he said in a statement. Home-based learning will continue despite the app’s suspension, he added. Zoom said in a statement that it “strongly condemns” such behaviour, adding it was “committed to providing educators with the tools and resources they need on a safe and secure platform”.

The app has become a goto service for everything from remote education, to exercise classes and happy hour celebrations as more and more people are stuck at home. But it has been scrambling to make improvements as security concerns mount, and earlier this week announced an update to its features. This included adding an icon called “Security” to its meeting controls. This provides easy access for hosts to features allowing them to lock a meeting; remove participants; and restrict participants’ ability to do things including share their screens and chat in a meeting. After initially keeping its virus outbreak in check, Singapore has seen a surge in cases this month. On Thursday, it reported its biggest daily increase in infections, 287, and now has a total of 1,910 cases and six deaths.