PLANO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – A Plano family is warning others after a hacker got into their son’s online classroom and sent him threatening messages.
“I didn’t expect that to happen,” said Ashton, who is a sixth grade Plano ISD student.
His virtual school day got off to a normal start Wednesday morning, but during a lesson on Google Slides, it took a terrifying turn.
“About 10 minutes into the presentation, tabs started popping up,” he said. “They said really scary things, like I’m going to kill you and if you tell your teacher, that they’re going to kill me.”
The hacker even posted the student’s home address.
Despite the threats, Ashton did tell his teacher, who was able to see the messages and record them. Then Ashton came downstairs to let his mom know what happened.
“I was mad and angry and scared for him,” said Laura, who did not want to share the family’s last name. “Yea, just want to get down to the bottom of it.”
Cyber security experts say these types of hacks will keep happening with so many schools forced to make a quick transition to full e-learning this year.
“With that rush, will come increased cyber risks for schools and for their students and families,” said Patrick Thielen, a cyber security expert at Chubb.
Thielen recommends families check and make sure the security feature for their device and software programs are turned on. It’s also a good idea to talk to your kids about not clicking on unknown links and always reporting anything suspicious.
“It’s very easy to go from zero percent cyber secure, to let’s say 80% by following common sense, free, and relatively simple steps that anybody could follow,” he said.
Ashton’s parents don’t want him to use his computer’s webcam for lessons anymore, in case hackers get access.
“And probably he’ll be next to me most of the day, instead of where he was doing his work,” Laura said.
He’s much more nervous about logging on than he was before.
“I just don’t want it to happen again,” Ashton said. “It was really scary. I was terrified.”
His family wants other to be prepared to handle the risks that come with virtual instruction.
“There’s no substitute for real, face-to -face learning.” said his dad Graham. “But until then, they need to figure out a way to lock this stuff dow,n so it’s at least as secure as possible.”
Graham says Plano ISD was quick to respond, reassuring the family they will get to the bottom of this and do everything they can to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Plano ISD released the following statement on the matter on Thursday afternoon:
Plano ISD was made aware of a possible breach of a student’s district-issued device. The district worked to mitigate the problem in an expedited way and our cybersecurity coordinator is investigating the cause of the breach. We will be able to share more with the student and family once the investigation concludes.
While there are safety measures in place, including the use of secure protocols when connecting to the Internet and software policies to help protect the student’s digital environment, the district is continually working to reinforce the filtering program already installed on each device as a protection from harmful content and vulnerability to outside threats.
Keeping devices secure when they leave our network is a complex undertaking, as we also work to keep students safe. While our team resolves this particular incident, they are also finding solutions to ensure it does not happen again.
This instance serves as an opportunity to evaluate and redouble cybersecurity measures, as well as reinforce safe online practices with students, families and staff.