Explicit material sent to students after Education Directorate email lists deciphered

Dominic Giannini 18 August 2020 4
Yvette Berry

Education Minister Yvette Berry said no external body hacked or exported information from the education system. Photo: Region Media.

A breach of the Education Directorate’s email distribution list, which resulted in pornography and inappropriate material being sent to public school students, occurred after some students were able to figure out the email address codes.

One student accidentally sent an email to the entire Year 8 public school cohort when trying to share work with his class on Friday (14 Friday). From there, students were able to decipher what the distribution list emails were and used them to send emails to other cohorts, Education Minister Yvette Berry confirmed.

“It appears these students copied the inappropriate material from private devices because content like pornography cannot be accessed from within the ACT public schools network,” the Education Minister said in a statement.

“The Education Directorate moved quickly to shut the system down at 13:00, including student email and the Google platform. No external body has hacked or exported information from the system.

“The Education Directorate also notified the eSafety Commissioner and is examining how to supplement existing eSafety support for students and families.”


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Both the Australian Federal Police and ACT Policing have been notified about the incident while an independent audit will be carried out.

There will be some disruption to the service for students returning to school today (17 August) and student email accounts will be suspended until at least the end of the week.

Students should regain access to Google Drive and Google Classroom by the end of the day.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the incident was disappointing but was not highly sophisticated.

“Even I could have hit reply-all to an email,” he said.

“It is disappointing on a number of levels that access to a group email was obtained, a distribution list, and then individuals took it upon themselves to distribute material that was entirely inappropriate.

“The nature of a digital world is that all of this is easily traceable and identifiable and so the Education Directorate will be responding to those matters.”


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Inappropriate material is being removed from all student email accounts and extra measures are being put in place to ensure students do not have access to email distribution lists in the future, Ms Berry said.

“I understand that this incident has caused some anxiety for some students and families and that it has disrupted students being able to study effectively during this time,” she said.

“Student wellbeing is the priority and I have asked the Directorate to ensure that robust controls are in place and have been thoroughly tested before returning student access back to the system.”

An extensive range of free e-safety resources for parents and children can be accessed on the eSafety Commissioner website.


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4 Responses to Explicit material sent to students after Education Directorate email lists deciphered
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Paul Murray Paul Murray 1:38 pm 17 Aug 20

So, the kid is going to get the cane, right? Simple, quick, over and done with, don’t do it again, no need for months of expensive soul-searching angst by an entire department of adults, none of whom realistically cold have done much about this, it’s the world we live in now.

Right? Cane the kid, move on.

    Kim Kim 3:29 pm 17 Aug 20

    Glad to see you’re not in government and Education Minister Paul Murray.

    John Moulis John Moulis 3:58 pm 17 Aug 20

    The cane was abolished in the ACT in 1974. I was at Melrose High when it happened. That was the year the Interim ACT Schools Authority took over education from the NSW Dept of Education and it was one of the first things they did. The abolition of school uniforms happened shortly after and the planning for the ACT secondary college system began at the same time.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 6:23 pm 17 Aug 20

    And it’s been all downhill since.

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