Loomis Chaffee Zoom Classes Bombed by Outsiders

Jenny Pan '22, Graphics Manager

Loomis Chaffee informed parents and students on March 17, 2020 that due to the growing COVID-19 outbreak, the school would be adapting to the online remote learning process for the rest of the school year. Although the transition to the online video conferencing platform, Zoom, was mostly smooth and successful, it was not without some bumps along the road.
A few weeks into online learning, Loomis Chaffee experienced several “Zoom bombings.” According to Heavy, an online news platform, a “Zoom bombing is when an uninvited attendee disrupts a Zoom meeting in any way.”
However, immediately after those incidents, the IT department took preventative measures to secure Zoom meetings for classes.
Even though the Zoom company claims otherwise, Zoom does not really support end-to-end encryption in every case, which prevents eavesdropping and protects data so that only the two ends, the sender and recipient, can read the messages of their conversation. This contradiction is caused by the easy accessibility of finding Zoom meeting URLs and joining them. Without taking additional steps to secure the platform like Loomis has done, anyone can join a meeting and listen in on the conversation.
Across the world, businesses, classes, and even athletic training sessions operated on Zoom have been targeted by online “bombers”. In some instances, intruders are even sharing pornographic, anti-Semitic, racist, or hate crimes content. Even the “FBI has issued a warning about using Zoom” according to the National Public Radio (NPR).
The freshman class meeting and Mrs. Reem Aweida-Parsons’ World History class both experienced Zoom bombings. Although these incidents were unprecedented and startling, Mrs. Caligiuri, the acting freshman dean, and Mrs. Aweida-Parsons, a history teacher, responded immediately to mitigate the damages of the disruptions.
“[The Zoom bombing] did not come as a total surprise, as I had heard about these types of issues starting to happen around the country,” Mrs. Caligiuri said. However, she mentioned she was still momentarily taken aback by the incident.
“An inappropriate picture flashed on the screen for just a few seconds, and I immediately ended our meeting,” Mrs. Caligiuri continued, describing the Zoom bombing during the end of the freshman class meeting.
Mrs. Aweida-Parsons and her B4 World History class were also interrupted by a Zoom bomber. While her class was learning about the causes of World War One, an intruder suddenly joined the meeting and wrote, “Take Care of Coronavirus!”
Mrs. Aweida-Parsons handled the situation by putting her students in breakout rooms so she could deal with the intruder alone. She took a screenshot of the message and reported the incident to the IT department, who quickly responded and acted on the same day by adding waiting rooms to every teacher’s Zoom room.
“I was very lucky that it was just a screen about COVID-19 and not something more nefarious,” Mrs. Aweida-Parsons said.
The school took further precautions by requiring students to change the email of their Zoom accounts to their Loomis email and using their full names for the accounts.
On a positive note, “I was VERY impressed by how well the members of the freshmen class handled themselves during the incident,” Mrs. Caligiuri said.
Loomis has never operated solely by online learning before the COVID-19 outbreak, and technology has suddenly become central to the educational experience.
“Overall, this technology is [a] good thing because it has helped us stay connected and continue to function as a society…however, it is imperative that we all take the necessary precautions to keep everyone safe,” Mrs. Caligiuri said.
“Without zoom and other technological processes that we have in place right now, our online experience would not be as rewarding,” Mrs. Aweida-Parsons said.
Online learning cannot be successful without the cooperation of students, the understanding teachers, and the effort of the school.
“I am able to see, hear, laugh, teach, have group work and have a great learning environment online thanks to our students who have embraced this temporary measure quickly and with positive vibes. [Technology] helps to keep our community tight knit,” Mrs. Aweida-Parsons said.