Privacy & Security

Seesaw, Digital Platform Used by Schools, Compromised With ‘Inappropriate Image’

By Molly Guthrey, Pioneer Press — September 15, 2022 2 min read
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Seesaw, a California-based education learning platform used by younger students across the nation and beyond, reported on Wednesday that it temporarily shut down its messaging feature after an incident involving an “inappropriate image” and an “outside actor.”

In the Twin Cities, South Washington County Schools was one of the school districts affected.

“SeeSaw experienced an event of unauthorized access to its messaging system,” wrote Bob Berkowitz, the director of the district’s technology department, in a statement. “This unauthorized access generated messages with an inappropriate image sent from parent accounts to staff accounts. Parents could view this message in their sent mailbox. There is no evidence of student accounts receiving any inappropriate messages.”

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Sheletta Brundidge has three students in the school district. She was logging onto Seesaw on Wednesday morning to update her 5th grader’s reading log when she noticed a strange message within the education platform.

“It looked like a spam message,” she said. “Something wasn’t right.”

She didn’t click on the link, but instead moved along with her busy day as a mom of three. Later, she saw the message from the school district about what had happened.

“It just shows how vulnerable these systems are,” she said.

Seesaw is designed to assist schools and teachers with the education of students from preschoolers through 5th grade. It also provides a way for parents to track their students’ assignments, progress, and more. The company says it is used by more than 10 million teachers, students, and family members every month across more than 75 percent of schools in the U.S. and more than 150 countries worldwide.

In July, Seesaw posted a video on YouTube introducing one app that connected teachers, students, and families.

In a statement posted online on Wednesday, Seesaw said “we take this incident extremely seriously” and was providing statements and updates on Twitter as well as its website.

So what happened?

“It was brought to our attention that a link to an inappropriate image was being shared via the Seesaw Messages feature,” the company said in its statement. “It appears that specific accounts were compromised by an outside actor.”

While Seesaw said it was still “up and running,” the messaging feature was temporarily turned off for all users “while we investigate, to prevent further spread of this image from being sent or seen by any Seesaw user.”

Seesaw did not disclose the nature of the message.

It just shows how vulnerable these systems are.

In an update posted early Wednesday afternoon, Seesaw reported that the problematic links are no longer accessible, passwords for affected individuals have been reset and the Messages feature has been enabled.

“We are continuing to monitor and investigate the situation,” the company said.

One person on Twitter, identifying as a parent from Texas, said they were one of the compromised accounts.

“You would think a platform with thousands of minors would have better security!” he tweeted to Seesaw.

Parents with questions can reach out to their school districts, or to Seesaw directly at help@seesaw.me. Updates at status.seesaw.me/.

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Copyright (c) 2022, Pioneer Press. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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