Mission organizations fear cyber attacks

By April 16, 2004

International (MNN) — Evangelism, church planting, and discipleship is the focus of most mission organizations. The ultimate goal is introducing people to Christ. However, computers are becoming an increasingly important part of that work. But, with computers come viruses, hackers and other types of cyber attacks which can jeopardize their work.

The Director of Information Systems with the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism is Neil Glotfelty. He says ABWE must make stopping viruses and hackers a top priority. “Because viruses not only can come in and shut down operations,” says Glotfelty, “but the email viruses have tendency of robbing your identity, stealing your address books, and security is a huge concern for an international mission agency like ours. Often times in areas where our missionaries serve, we have to be careful.”

Trans World Radio’s Chief Technical Officer John Baines agrees with Glotfelty. Baines says smaller mission groups are susceptible because they may not have the knowledge or the funding. He says failure to adequately protect their network could be devastating. “Say the Chinese government, or a Muslim hacker in the Philippines can access their computer,” says Baines, “if they haven’t kept the patches up to date and put the protections on there, (they) can take over the whole thing, either destroy the contents of the computer or, worse still, find out all the names and addresses that they’ve got on there of their missionaries within his area and target those people.”

Baines says cyber security is on his mind constantly and he’s asking Christians to pray for all computer security missionaries. “You’re constantly responding to new threats,” says Bainers. He adds, “A lot of it is preparation, but even if you get the preparation right it’s still it weighs on your mind, it takes time that you could be using on other things. We need strength. And, the only place that strength is going to come from is from the Lord.”

ABWE’s I-S budget has increased 20-percent each year since 2000, because of the need to protect themselves from cyber attacks.

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