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Heartless Hack Targets Vulnerable Students During Zoom Class

ROSEVILLE (CBS13) — While more students head back to the classroom, many are still learning from home on Zoom classes. But one group will have a more difficult time getting on Zoom after hackers targeted their class.

Mackenzie Muir is a member of the Down Syndrome Information Alliance (DSIA). The group just started a six-week musical theater course on Zoom, but on day one the Zoom class got hacked.

"Very inappropriate images, sexual images. It was just very jarring," said Mackenzie's father Alastair.

DSIA Executive Director Allison Olson told CBS13 it was clearly a targeted attack. Olson says dozens of intruders suddenly joined the class shouting slurs aimed at people with Down syndrome.

"We had participants who were crying afterward, who couldn't get back on. They didn't understand why they were being made fun of," said Olson.

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Such attacks are becoming a trend.  Zoom bombings on private meetings are popping up across the country.

Hackers interrupted a Black Student Union meeting at the University of Texas just last month. It's another group now determined to find those responsible and hold them accountable.

The actions are leaving a trail of broken hearts but prompting a mission to make it right.

"I couldn't believe that people could be so callous to treat people with disabilities like that," said Alastair.

"There's clearly more work that needs to be done in advocacy and awareness of the Down syndrome community. They are worthy of respect," said Olson.

Davis Police are investigating it as a hate incident, which they told CBS13 they take "very seriously." If caught, the hackers could face serious criminal charges considering the pornographic images shown to the group including a child as young as seven years old.

Zoom sent CBS13 this statement:

"This incident is truly devastating and appalling, and Zoom condemns such behavior in the strongest possible terms. Our user policies explicitly prohibit any obscene, indecent, illegal or violent activity or content on the platform, and we are looking into this specific incident to ensure the appropriate action is taken. We have recently updated a number of default settings to help secure meetings at the outset and added features to help hosts more easily access in-meeting security controls, lock meetings, as well as remove and report participants, among other actions. We have also been educating users on security best practices for setting up their meetings, including recommending that users never share private meeting links and passwords publicly on websites, social media or other public forums, and encouraging anyone hosting large-scale or public events to utilize Zoom's webinar solution. We take meeting disruptions extremely seriously and where appropriate, we work closely with law enforcement authorities. We encourage users to report any incidents of this kind to Zoom and law enforcement authorities so the appropriate action can be taken against offenders."

Meantime, the hack comes during Down Syndrome Awareness month.  DSIA is going ahead with its Step Up For Down Syndrome virtual walk this weekend.  If you'd like to participate or donate, visit their website.

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