Hackers threaten, blackmail World Council of Churches communication director

(Photo: Peter Kenny)The World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland on April 5, 2019

A group identifying itself as "The Chinese Expert Group" is threatening World Council of Churches communication director Marianne Ejdersten.

The group first made contact on April 17, hacking Ejdersten's private email account, taking a collection of private family photos, and asked for payment of US$159,000 within 72 hours, the WCC said in a statement Thursday.

The group also threatened to share the photos worldwide, then hack the WCC website and social media accounts.

The WCC did not name any group it suspected of the action.

On April 18, WCC general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit condemned the criminal attack on its staff and system.

"It is terrible to experience such things as this, but public roles can lead to attacks like these," said Tveit. "The WCC will never give in to such threats."

Ejdersten and the WCC continue to take the necessary steps to protect their security and have already informed the police.

"We will continue our work," said Tveit.

The threats, received over email and via cell phone, set a deadline for receipt of money.

"We won't entertain any delay in the transfer of the required amount today," reads the threat, in part.

"If you engage in any illicit delay, we are going to do the most heavy thing to see that your image is brought down to nothing and if you act improper against this instruction given out to you, you will see our supremacy."

Ejdersten said she is shocked but not scared.

"This is an attack on me, my family, the World Council of Churches, and on freedom of expression," she said.

"It is unacceptable to use private material for blackmailing me. I will never, ever pay for my right to have private communication with my own family members and friends."

Ejdersten believes the threat might be an attempt to silence or diminish communication of the WCC's public and prophetic voice that help bring to light stories from the most vulnerable in the world.

She did not name where those stories were being carried.

"After this, I'm more than ever convinced that a strong voice for justice and peace is needed," said Ejdersten.

The WCC communication director wrote on her FaceBook page, "Because of a security threat against me, our work in Communication and the WCC, my writing time allocated to follow up on security reports and upgrade security within the system. And read new hate emails.

"Why all the hate? Why all these criminal actions? Maybe because of the prophetic voice of the WCC in Israel and Palestine? More to come, I'm sure."

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