CHURCHGOERS in Worcestershire were left shocked when their online zoom meeting was infiltrated by hackers.

‘Zoombombers’ joined the virtual meeting on Monday without an invite and ‘shared some offensive and disturbing content on both their profile pictures and in the chat.’

Members of the meeting say it was ‘unpleasant and distressing.’

In a video leaked to YouTube the hackers can be heard swearing and telling members they should ‘convert to Islam’ and sexual images were shared.

One of the hackers had a swastika on the screen and changed its name to ‘John Preston host’ in an attempt to make people think he was the chair of the meeting.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Worcester said: “We are currently running a series of meetings on Zoom to enable people from our churches across Worcestershire and Dudley to become involved in the future plans for our diocese.

"Anyone is welcome to attend and although we keep a list, we don’t always know all those who have signed up.

“Unfortunately, at our meeting on Monday, several people were admitted who shared some offensive and disturbing content on both their profile pictures and in the chat line.

"We removed a number of people immediately, but one remained undetected and therefore we took the decision to end the meeting.

“As a result we have increased our security and changed our processes and are confident that all future meetings can go ahead without any further issues.

"We held a meeting on Tuesday evening with no problems.

“We have apologised to all those who were present at Monday’s meeting and have offered the opportunity to speak to a member of our safeguarding team if anyone was distressed by what they saw.

"Many of those present have already signed up to a future date.

“It wasn’t very pleasant for any of us who were there, but we’re confident that we’ve minimised the risk of it happening again.”

What is 'zoombombing'?

Zoombombing is a type of cyber-harassment in which an individual or a group of unwanted and uninvited users interrupt online meetings over the Zoom video conference app. This disruption occurs when intruders gate-crash gatherings – sometimes for malicious purposes, such as sharing pornographic or hate images or shouting offensive language – without the host's permission.

How to prevent 'zoombombing'

To avoid interruptions from Zoombombers, meeting attendees must use a passcode and not their Personal Meeting ID, which would enable someone with their unique 10-digit number to join the meeting.

An additional protective feature is Waiting Room, where the host must admit attendees. To activate Waiting Room, sign in to the Zoom web portal, click Meetings and select a meeting topic or schedule a new meeting. Select Enable Waiting Room under Meeting Options.

Zoom has encouraged those hosting large, public group meetings to adjust their settings so that only they can share their screen.

To ensure that only the host can share the screen, tap the Share Screen button, and select Advanced Sharing Options.