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Hackers gain control of parish website  

18 December 2020

iStock

A CYBER attack on a parish website in North Yorkshire was made with the intention of “causing damage or embarrassment to the local church”, the diocese of York has said.

Since last week, a website for the churches of Lastingham, Hutton-le-Hole, Appleton-le-Moors, Rosedale, and Cropton, has shown visitors a message that redirects them to an American web page advertising “satanic” spells and offering the services of people claiming to be witches.

The spells claim to entice new lovers, take revenge on enemies, use voodoo, and give access to psychic readings. Those wanting to make contact over the phone or internet could be charged more than £5 per minute.

The director of communications and parish resourcing for the diocese of York, Martin Sheppard, said on Monday: “Someone appears to have got control of a previous version of the parish website and its domain, and has connected it with deliberately misleading and harmful content, with what appears to be the intention of causing damage or embarrassment to the local church.

“The diocese is supporting the PCC in trying to have the fraudulent website closed down.”

York diocese said that the domain name was the one used for the parish website several years ago, owned by a member of the PCC who has since moved on. Although it was replaced with the current parish website, the hackers managed to resurrect the previous domain with a spoof version of the website.

The hacked web page displays a message to visitors saying: “This is a time of rapid cultural change. Many are feeling a loss of eternal values and spiritual certainties.

“Our churches have seen this problem, so we’ve started to offer free psychic reading to encourage people to reconnect with their spiritual side. We believe the age does not favour ‘church’ Christianity.”

A church in California, St Paulus in San Francisco, filed a lawsuit in May against the video conferencing company Zoom after a virtual Bible-study class was hacked and users were shown pornographic photos. The church said that Zoom had done nothing about the complaint, although the videos contained images of child sexual abuse (News, 22 May).

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