Security researchers analysing an office computer belonging to the Dalai Lama, exiled leader of Tibetan Buddhism, unearthed evidence of a global cyber-espionage botnet originating in China, it emerged in March 2009.
Not only does the story demonstrate the alarming accuracy with which modern cyber-criminals and so-called ‘hacktivists’ can target their mark, it also highlights a common, yet oft neglected, victim of cyber-crime: the religious leader.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama should count his blessings, though, that he was spared the indignity suffered by the Grand Ayatollah of Iraqi Shiites, Sayyid Ali Husani Al-Sistani.
In September 2008, a group of Sunni hackers calling themselves Group XP gained access to the controversial cleric’s website, and embedded a video of American comic Bill Maher ridiculing Al-Sistani’s advice to his followers.
In 2001, hackers hailing from Brazil successfully gained access to the website of the Pope’s official radio station, although they were rumbled before they managed to deface anything.
By 2006, Vatican security officials had learned their lesson, and an attempt to launch an unspecified cyber-attack on the Pope Benedict XVI’s website, after he made unpopular comments on Islam, was successfully thwarted.
Closer to home, it emerged in March 2009 that the Bishop of Manchester had fallen victim to a worm that reportedly deleted many of his emails. This was particularly embarrassing for the Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch as he is on the House of
Lords communications select committee.
Most religions have yet to turn the tables on hackers and virus makers, though. Leading the fightback are enterprising priests at the Kanda-Myojin Shrine in Tokyo. For a small fee, they will dedicate blessings to businessmen and computer enthusiasts to ensure that their PCs are free from malware infection.