Zoom-bombing: Keeping your family safe

FAYETTE COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – Since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools to close and has most adults working from home, many people use Zoom to stay connected.

“We have Zoom meetings every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and some days we don’t have a lot to say but we’re all very thankful to see each other,” says Oak Hill High School Principal Katie Hayes. “We’re a real, big, tight-knit family and we miss our family.”

In an age of technology, some people take advantage of the popular service.

“[Zoom-bombing is] this phenomenon where people are hacking into these online Zoom meetings,” says Fayette County prosecutor Jeffrey Mauzy. “It’s kind of easy to get into somebody’s meeting until they put in some new protections like passwords and things like that. It can be pretty easy for random people to get into different rooms.

Although it hasn’t happened in southern West Virginia, that isn’t the case for the rest of the country. In one incident, a fourth-grade class’s Zoom meeting was derailed when someone shared pornographic images in the feed.

Hayes says her teachers make sure they take all the necessary precautions to prevent it from happening to them.

“There is now a waiting room for your participants,” Hayes says. “They’ve activated that on all accounts, so in other words, you have to grant access to people to come into your Zoom meeting.”

Anyone considering pulling the prank should think twice, as it carries a hefty sentence, especially if it involves children.

“That’s a pretty serious felony that carries up to five years in prison and a significant fine,” Mauzy says. “If this was done with a group of children, then I would consider every child a separate victim.”

With every child considered a separate victim, an offender would face five years behind bars for every child involved.

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Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at ksimmons@woay.com.