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Virtual conference hosted by Utah colleges disrupted by hackers

Posted at 9:03 PM, Feb 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-19 23:39:44-05

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah — Online hackers hijacked a virtual conference co-hosted by Salt Lake Community College and University of Utah.

“We were told, ‘We will kill you,’” said Ken-Gay Lee, a SLCC student.

Four hours into the nation-wide virtual Transformative Justice and Abolition Criminology Conference, hackers posted five minutes of disturbing videos, traumatizing dozens of participants.

“It made me feel violated. I can only speak to myself, but fearful. Not only that, we were exposed to child pornography,” said Brock Smith, a fellow SLCC student.

Hackers included racial slurs and death threats while holding weapons, even calling out students and faculty by name. The students believe the hack is nothing short of a hate crime.

“They are taking us to the point where we are being terrified by the things they are doing. Not only do we not feel safe, but we have to wonder if the people know who we are and we don’t know who they are,” Lee said.

The so-called "cyber bomb" is the second to involve Salt Lake Community College students this month. The college’s chief diversity officer tells FOX 13 she believes it was the same group who hacked a virtual poetry slam hosted by the Black Student Union.

“It’s like they are stalking us and stalking our efforts to do good. They are very preditorial,” Lee said.

While SLCC co-hosted the event put on on by SaveTheKids.org, college spokesperson Joy Tlou says the college was not the host.

"When it came down to the technology that was disrupted, that was not on our electronic or IT resources," Tlou said.

However, the students argue more should be done.

“The safety parameters that Salt Lake Community College has, we feel that they are not sufficient to be able to keep students who are predominantly of color safe,” Lee said.

University of Utah Police confirm they are leading the local investigation into the hack.