Wicomico Co. parents concerned after hackers break into online learning sessions

WICOMICO COUNTY, Md. – Some Wicomico County parents are left feeling shocked and upset after learning their children were exposed to disturbing messages and images during virtual classes.

In one case, Andrea Hoopes says her daughter was participating in class when an unknown man entered the meeting. “In a mock child voice talking to the teacher, it alerted her attention to it. Then he started using profanity and she very quickly ended the meeting,” said Andrea Hoopes.

Hoopes took to Facebook, asking other local parents if their children had experienced anything similar. Many concerned parents responded. One wrote that someone hacked into their daughters Zoom class and asked girls to show their private parts, while offering to show his genitalia and drawing explicit images on a white board.  Another parent tells 47ABC that her son’s class was hacked and pornographic images were broadcasted in the session.

Hoopes says that in the scramble to get her children ready for online learning, this was one of the last things she could’ve predicted. “To have something like that that terrorizes them for a short moment of time – yes they recover quickly. They’re kids. But it kind of makes them not want to walk in front of the TV. Can someone see me through the TV?” said Hoopes.

In a statement, Wicomico County Public Schools says they are aware of the incidents and are working to alert parents. The school district also says the IT department is working on a way to make online sessions more secure. WCPS said “WCPS encourages parents to remind their students not to share school zoom URL links or passwords with anyone. Doing so violates the Acceptable Use Policy and Procedure.”

Hoopes says that instead of answers on how to keep her children safe during online learning, she’s left with more questions and worry. “How many other classrooms are having this issue? I don’t blame the teacher for it. I’m concerned because there’s people hacking into the systems. They access to visualize my children,” said Hoopes.

The Wicomico County Sherff’s Department declined an interview. However, they tell 47ABC that they began an investigation into the incidents Tuesday. They say that the types of penalties the person responsible could face depends on what they are charged with.

Categories: Education, Local News, Maryland