The state cancelled a virtual meeting held on Zoom for children's health care providers on Thursday after hackers displayed "offensive images" to participants. Credit: Mark Lennihan | AP

The state cancelled a virtual meeting for children’s health care providers on Thursday after hackers displayed “offensive images” to participants.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Child and Family Services hosted its weekly “Children’s Behavioral Health Townhall” on the Zoom teleconferencing software platform Thursday morning. But before the proceedings officially began, someone hacked the meeting’s video feed, DHHS spokesperson Jackie Farwell said.

“We were deeply disturbed by offensive images that were displayed, and while we ended the call before the scheduled start time, some participants were subjected to this content,” Farwell said, adding that fewer than 15 participants were in the meeting at the time.

DHHS notified the Maine Office of Information Technology and the Department of Public Safety, Farwell said, adding that the hack will be investigated “as a potential crime.” State departments are “reviewing protocols” to ensure the security of virtual conferences, she said. The Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit is investigating the incident, said State Police spokesperson Stephen McCausland.

The meeting was conducted over Zoom, which allows multiple parties to video chat simultaneously and ensure proper social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

But the widespread use of the platform has also led to hacking incidents, dubbed “Zoom-bombing.”

Late last month, the FBI issued a warning about using teleconferencing for online learning, noting that it had received “multiple reports of conferences being disrupted by pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language.”

Just a few days later, a virtual Bath City Council meeting ended abruptly after the meeting’s Zoom feed was hacked and used to display pornographic images.

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