Published: 09:40 GMT Daylight Time - Thursday 11 August 2011
US church websites hacked to post appeal for conversion to Islam
Country/Region: United States
The FBI has launched an investigation after 18 church websites across the United States were hacked and their regular content replaced with an appeal for Christians to convert to Islam.
The Rev. Vinnie Dauer of Fallen Timbers Community Church in Waterville, Ohio, said he received a text message from a church member telling him that someone had posted "Muslim propaganda" on the church's website.
Mr Dauer, who is the assistant pastor of Fallen Timbers, said:
"It was unnerving, but I think also it was an indicator to me of the different world we live in. No one could walk into this church building and put up propaganda that's contradictory to our belief system, but yet our website is a representation of who we are."
Churches in other parts of the US, including California, Seattle, Texas, North Carolina and Florida, were also affected by the hacking.
The hacker, who identified himself as a Muslim and signed his work "Mr HAiL", gained access to the website host's entire portfolio of sites, but altered only the church sites.
He deleted the content and replaced them with a photograph of Mecca, a few paragraphs about Islam, and a list of twelve other websites purportedly containing more information about the Muslim faith.
Ryan Leisure of R Leisure Enterprises, which hosts the sites, said:
"It's a little alarming that just the churches were getting targeted by it. It seemed like he was clearly trying to convert people. I don't see how he could actually be successful with this, but he was talking about Christians converting to Islam."
Mr Dauer said he was confident that the site would be secure in the future after extra protection measures were introduced. He said it was "a little scary" that someone may have stumbled on the church's site and seen something different from what the church represents.
But websites and social media have become major ways for churches to reach out to people and keep members informed about church activities, and he does not see that changing. "If we had to choose between a phone number and a website, I'd choose a website."
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Read the Toledo Blade Article - Church Web sites hacked to push conversion to Islam
Read the Sentinel-Tribune Article - Hacking investigated