Listening to the bidding prayers at Mass or the prayer requests at a service is always interesting. We have no doubt heard prayer requests asked for a solution to homelessness, famine, terrorism, war and so on and so forth. But how many reading have ever heard of a prayer request made for cyber-security? I have been to Mass at quite a number of places (and, for that matter, Divine Liturgies and worship services. . .whatever floats your boat, “the whole kit and kaboodle”) but I cannot remember a time when someone has come up to say: “Let us pray for our nation’s cyber-security”.
The silence is certainly deafening, increasingly in a world where the tangible is being transferred to the digital. Cyber-security was deemed the biggest issue by banks in the United Kingdom in 2013, and it was an issue that featured prominently in the World Economic Forum in 2016. The recent WannaCry attacks that brought the NHS to its knees and disrupted around 250,000 computers in over 150 countries around the world – and what is beginning to look like a cyber attack on British Airways – really show just how important cyber-security is in the world today.
Albert Einstein once famously remarked that he knew that World War IV would be fought with “sticks and stones”. But if I might be so bold as to challenge the genius, it looks increasingly like it will be fought with 0s and 1s. Hence it is unsurprising that some analysts attribute the WannaCry attacks to North Korea, and Theresa May warned that the so-called Islamic State is moving from the battlefield to the internet, and next week (1st June 2017) marks the 5th anniversary in which President Obama ordered Stuxnet cyber attacks against Iran’s nuclear facility in what was dubbed “Operation Olympic Games”.
With all of this mentioned, we really are confronted with the question as to why cyber security isn’t featured much more prominently in churches? Cyber attacks have the prospect of decimating entire economies, bringing vital services to a halt, as well as offering a new avenue for war between nation-states. My own tentative thought is that the reason it is not taken seriously in the Church might be because cyber-security is “invisible”. But then surely that seems contradictory to a religion based on worshipping an unseen God? The other possibility is that the Church is just seriously behind the times.
It is something worth considering: perhaps we should all ask St. Michael much more frequently to protect our devices and accounts from digital good-fer-nothings?