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Military official: Malware to blame for site block

by Michael Foust

NASHVILLE (BP) — A military official says malware was to blame for the Southern Baptist Convention’s website being blocked on some military bases.

Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a Defense Department spokesman, said the military’s software filters detected malware at SBC.net and blocked the website. The malware since has been removed off the website, and the denomination’s website unblocked, he said.

“The Department of Defense is not intentionally blocking access to this site,” Pickart told The Tennessean in an email. “The Department of Defense strongly supports the religious rights of service members, to include their ability to access religious websites like that of the SBC.”

Social media sites were buzzing Thursday (April 25) over allegations that the military had blocked the website for other reasons. FoxNews first reported that Southern Baptist-endorsed chaplains on military installations had unsuccessfully tried to access SBC.net, and had received a message: “The site you have requested has been blocked by Team CONUS (C-TNOSC/RCERT-CONUS) due to hostile content.” The site was not blocked at the Pentagon, FoxNews said.

The Associated Press wrote a story summarizing what had happened, and that story was carried on websites around the world. Some Christians focused on the phrase “hostile content” and wondered whether the denomination’s traditional positions on abortion, gay marriage and the Bible were the reason the military was blocking the site.

Chris Chapman, the SBC Executive Committee’s director of information systems, said SBC.net — like the websites of many other organizations — is a target for hackers. He also said the military’s filters are at an “optimum level” in blocking content, not simply “recognizing invading viruses” but also blocking anything that possibly could be harmful.

“This most recent challenge fits into that latter category, and has been dealt with satisfactorily,” Chapman said. “Unfortunately, SBC.net has joined the ranks of other major organizations that are targets for hackers, detractors and activists. Those engaged in destructive creativity will exploit the continuing development of new technologies to cause new harm and threats of harm continually, so this latest challenge is, for us, just another one of the sort we deal with every day. The fact that it ‘made the news’ was certainly a distinguishing feature, but the attempted attack was not all that unusual.”

But SBC.net remains safe to visit, he said.

“Certainly, having adequate virus protection is necessary for us all, but visitors to SBC.net need not worry about harm from visiting our site to any greater degree than they should from any other credible and well-established site,” Chapman said. “If any user suspects a hacking attempt, vulnerability, or virus, or even if there are accessibility issues, we welcome being informed by email. You may contact our IT division directly by emailing us at Webmaster@sbc.net.”

Early Thursday, Roger S. Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations for the SBC’s Executive Committee, expressed caution against jumping to conclusions.

“Though there have been several instances recently in which evangelical Christians have been marginalized by the broader culture, we think that a rush to judgment that the United States Military has targeted the Southern Baptist Convention as a hostile religious group would be premature,” Oldham said at the time.

Following is the full statement from Chris Chapman:

“The recent situation impeding access to our website for some was aggravated by a misunderstanding of a term familiar to those in the information technology field. That term is ‘hostile content.’ To technical administrators, it simply means some sort of vulnerability or virus. It might not even be an actively harmful element, but simply an exploitable or potentially exploitable condition. We now live in an age where defending against or removing ‘hostile content’ is a daily undertaking, especially for any organization that maintains multiple Internet servers.

“As one might expect, the wall of defense for the computer systems of our armed forces is at an optimum level. We appreciate the fact that it goes beyond recognizing invading viruses and includes closing down harmful possibilities. This most recent challenge fits into that latter category, and has been dealt with satisfactorily.

“Unfortunately, SBC.net has joined the ranks of other major organizations that are targets for hackers, detractors and activists. Those engaged in destructive creativity will exploit the continuing development of new technologies to cause new harm and threats of harm continually, so this latest challenge is, for us, just another one of the sort we deal with every day. The fact that it ‘made the news’ was certainly a distinguishing feature, but the attempted attack was not all that unusual.

“Certainly, having adequate virus protection is necessary for us all, but visitors to SBC.net need not worry about harm from visiting our site to any greater degree than they should from any other credible and well-established site. If any user suspects a hacking attempt, vulnerability, or virus, or even if there are accessibility issues, we welcome being informed by email. You may contact our IT division directly by emailing us at Webmaster@sbc.net.”
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Compiled by Michael Foust associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

Author: Staff

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