Schools on alert after men 'inappropriately' hacked Zoom class

Hackers accessed secure HSE information

Katherine Donnelly

Schools are on alert to IT security risks over online classes as a garda investigation gets under way into how a number of men gained unauthorised access to a lesson for second-year students.

The breach, at a Co Meath school on Wednesday, was made worse when the men acted inappropriately.

Gardaí have confirmed the Divisional Protective Services Unit, whose areas of responsibility include alleged offences around child protection, is investigating.

Another second-level school has reported to parents that a number of online classes have been disrupted by pupils themselves.

The principal of the south Dublin school sent an email yesterday advising that a minority of students "have been disrespectful to staff, disrupted live lessons by shouting out inappropriately, changed their names to inappropriate ones and dropped their video so as to annotate the screen disrespectfully".

He added: "This behaviour is completely inappropriate and is disrupting the education that we are trying to provide as well as affecting the well-being of staff and students alike.

"As a response, staff are up-skilling and reassessing their approach to lesson planning and delivery."


The principal referred to "a small number of more serious class disruptions" and said "all appropriate actions have been taken and the relevant authorities have been reported to by the college to ensure they won't happen again".

He did not provide any information about the nature of the "more serious class disruptions" or the "relevant authorities" to which the school has reported the matter.

The principal asked students not to share access codes for the Zoom video conferencing platform and added that "unless otherwise informed, the camera must be turned on with the full name and their live image on the screen".

Parents have been asked to discuss the matter with their children.

More than 900,000 pupils returned to remote teaching and learning this week.

While there are anecdotal reports of disruption to online classes elsewhere, education authorities said they did not believe it was a widespread problem.

However, the incident in the Co Meath school, during a class on the Microsoft Teams platform, set alarm bells ringing.

Co Galway principal Daniel Hyland, who is a member of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) executive, sent an email to regional colleagues advising that they contact their ICT support com-panies.