Porn horror: Miscreants hack into Kerala schools' online classes, post nude videos, photos

Porn horror: Miscreants hack into Kerala schools' online classes, post nude videos, photos
Representational image: dkroy/Shutterstock
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Malappuram: The well-intended and innocuous online teaching environment, being used by students and teachers in Kerala after the COVID-19 outbreak, is being misused by perverted psychopaths to post sexually deviant videos and photos.

The miscreants had infiltrated the popular video-conferencing app Zoom and even WhatsApp to stream obscene content to unsuspecting students in at least three incidents reported from Kerala's Malappuram district.

The Social Welfare Department and the police have asked schools and teachers to be wary of such acts, pointing to the deep trauma that such posts could bring about on children in an impressionable age.

A special team of the state police had started investigating into the incidents. The first incident, which exposed the loopholes in Zoom, was reported from a private school in Edappal. The authorities of the CBSE School at Edappal approached the Childline authorities of Malappuram with a complaint that a man live-streamed his nude videos during an online session for Class VII students.

Porn horror: Miscreants hack into Kerala schools' online classes, post nude videos, photos
Representational image: Stenko Vlad/Shutterstock

As per a complaint lodged by the school headmistress, the miscreant managed to join the online classes through Zoom from August 17 to August 21. He sent obscene photos and videos through the app. On August 21, he live-streamed nudity during class. “The incident has affected the children severely,” the complaint said.

Teachers were in a state of shock too. “It was a shocking incident. We don’t know the actual motive of the man. Initially, we struggled to deal with it and the school management contacted child welfare authorities and the police,” a teacher said.

He said the teachers of other schools too were facing similar issues. “But most school managements are not ready to approach the police with a complaint,” he said.

Recollecting the moment, a student who attended the class said the teacher abruptly ended the class before she could realize what was happening. The student frantically ran to her mother and asked her to ring up the teacher to know what had happened.

Based on the complaint filed by the headmistress, the Kuttippuram police registered cases under Sections 11 (I), 11(iii) and 12 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, Section 67 of the IT Act and Section 509 of the IPC.

Horror on WhatsApp group

In a similar incident, the authorities of a special school under the Parappanangadi police station limits also approached the police with a complaint that an unknown person who joined the WhatsApp group for online class had posted a porn video. The teachers managed to delete the WhatsApp group immediately after the video was shared. But a student had recorded the entire activity in the group using a screen recorder and the screen recorded video had details like contact numbers of teachers and parents. This got widely circulated on social media. After this, the teachers and parents started receiving videos and messages with obscene content on their phones.

The police said they had identified the culprit but he was yet to be taken into custody.

Porn horror: Miscreants hack into Kerala schools' online classes, post nude videos, photos
Representational image: Burdun Iliya/Shutterstock

Porn postings

In another incident, the Sunni Students Federation (SSF) approached Childline authorities with a complaint that an unknown person, who joined the WhatsApp group created by the organisation for students, posted more than a hundred porn video clips in the group. The Vengara police registered a case under Sections 11 (iii) and 12 of the POCSO Act and Section 67 of the IT Act.

District Police Chief, Malappuram, U Abdul Kareem said a special team led by Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP), Tirur, Suresh Babu, was probing the case.

Cyberdome, the cybersecurity arm of Kerala police, had issued a detailed advisory to schools across the state after noticing vulnerabilities in the ‘meeting apps’ used by schools to impart lessons.

The Cyberdome listed three issues, namely, ‘privilege elevation vulnerability,’ ‘information disclosure vulnerability,’ and ‘UNC path injection vulnerability’ as the major technical issues. It also detailed the security steps to be taken by the school authorities. But these incidents were testimony to the fact that the parents and teachers had not taken cybersecurity with adequate seriousness.

Childline coordinator, Malappuram, Anwar Karakkadan said hundreds of such incidents were happening across the state but only a few approached the police. “The incidents affect the students deeply and they take time to recover from the trauma. The government should take immediate steps to provide a safe and secure online facility for schools and other educational institutions.”

Anand V S, an officer attached to the Cyberdome, said the incidents reported in different schools in Malappuram were ‘organised crimes’ by individuals who took advantage of the loopholes in the security features of online platforms.

“Schools use different platforms like Zoom App, WhatsApp, Google Meet, Skype etc, for their online classes. It is not practical for the government to monitor each application. Lack of awareness among the teachers and parents could also work to the advantage of the miscreants. The school authorities should take the initiative to train parents and teachers,” he said. Some schools had developed their own online platforms to prevent such incidents, he added.

The Cyberdome will create a note to safe-guide the users of online teaching platforms.

(Nijeesh Narayanan is an independent journalist based in Kozhikode)

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