HOUSTON, TX (KTRK) — Graphic pornography videos surfaced in multiple live stream Zoom sessions at the Harris County Court at Law Tuesday morning, startling judges, attorneys, defendants and staffers.
How the hack could happen to multiple courts was the talk of the town in Harris County courtrooms Tuesday, often accompanied by a low chuckle tinged with confusion.
ABC13 has confirmed that at least three and possibly as many as seven of Harris County’s misdemeanor courts have been hacked with pornographic videos.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused Zoom court hearings to become commonplace in Harris County court systems. Judges would turn on a Zoom video link daily to make court cases accessible to attorneys and citizens who can’t make it there in person.
In the middle of the file, the images appeared on several of the court’s video screens.
“I saw 10 or 12 seconds of it in the middle of the courtroom,” said Tyler Flood, an attorney who saw the porn. “It was crazy. The entire giant screen was taken over by it. The camera really zoomed in. Shocking!”
Several court coordinators, who did not want their names used, confirmed to ABC13 that they saw porn on their computer screens. The coordinators said their judges simply turned off Zoom and continued the court in real life.
At least one attorney shared an email saying Zoom sessions for the court she was scheduled to do business in had been canceled for the day because of the porn hack.
Flood, former president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, hopes the unwanted, drastic intrusion doesn’t result in Zoom’s demise in court.
“Because that was one of the few good things that came out of COVID,” he said. “As for the porn… ‘I wish I couldn’t watch it.'”
By Tuesday night, court officials provided some transparency about the lewdness, over which they said they had little control. The Harris County Courts of Court Management offered this explanation:
“Several Harris County courts witnessed zoom bombing — or unauthorized screen sharing — of explicit images during the daily docket this morning. The incidents were quickly reported to the court’s administrative staff, and the feeds were immediately shut down. The incident has been referred to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Judicial Threat Unit for further investigation and possible criminal charges. In the meantime, additional security measures related to Zoom Screen Sharing have been implemented for all County Courts at Law.
This is the first instance of unauthorized screen sharing during a County Court at Law proceeding since the Zoom proceeding was conducted in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We have since provided thousands of hours of online court cases with no such issues. We are now reviewing our processes and procedures to determine what additional security measures may be needed as we work to strike a balance between ensuring public access to justice and preventing a recurrence.”
Holly Huffman, communications director
Harris County Courts Office of Court Management
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