Cybersecurity – and prayer as an active protection
A Christian Science perspective: Can prayer actually help in the throes of computer security breaches?
There’s something both new and old in recent media coverage of worldwide spikes in computer-based crime: a new vocabulary, involving terms like data breaches and cybersecurity audits; and a too familiar scenario, involving attackers causing harm and loss to victims.
I became involved in this scenario when my personal data was hacked and my identity was apparently stolen. But a recent column by the Monitor’s Passcode team advocating a stronger stance against cybercrime brought fresh light to the issue for me. It said, “organizations must consider a new approach to securing their IT assets.... [T]hey should take a lean-forward approach that actively hunts for new and unseen threats” (see “After high-profile hacks, it’s time for a bolder approach to cybersecurity,” CSMonitor.com).
“A lean-forward approach” meant to me, as a Christian Scientist, that I should lean forward mentally in expectant prayer as a first resort for answers. Prayer that understands God’s control and affirms our dominion as the man or woman of God’s creating can certainly be at the leading edge of our active defense from attacks and wrongdoing. Growing in the understanding of our relationship to God, who is divine Mind, can protect us in the face of harm.
Christian Science teaches that divine Mind, God, created all – including man in His image and likeness – and that this creation reflects God’s goodness and omnipotence (see Genesis 1:26, 31). This spiritual reality is everlasting, and as we begin to comprehend the total goodness and all-power of God and His creation, the powerlessness of evil becomes more apparent. Seeking out the truth of being in this way makes us more conscious of the protecting and preserving power of God. We realize we have God-given dominion over attack, harm, and evil intent. As the Bible shows, we too can pray like the prophet Elisha, who turned to God when he faced a malicious ambush and said to his fearful servant, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (II Kings 6:16). Elisha not only knew, but keenly felt, God’s protecting presence, assuring him that his spiritual nature and oneness with God were always safeguarded and preserved – and that he would be delivered from his enemies. This same spiritual understanding is a protection in the face of any sort of invasive act – cyber or otherwise.
A few years ago, my wife and I discovered that several of our credit-card accounts had been hacked and thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges had been made. We resolved this quickly through our bank and the credit-card companies, only to discover that a much more serious breach had occurred. When we submitted our income tax return that year, the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) informed us we couldn’t file electronically because someone else had already filed a return using one of our Social Security numbers.
In our initial contact with an IRS representative, we learned that our data had apparently been compromised through cyberfraud, and that because of the steep upward spike in this type of computer-based crime nationwide, we shouldn’t get our hopes up for a quick resolution. Aside from feeling violated, we also felt angry, and then fearful – wondering if all our personal data had been stolen and our identities compromised. At this point we realized that we needed to “lean forward” in a different direction: to strongly and unflinchingly affirm the presence and power of God’s law of good right where we were, at that moment.
In addressing our issue prayerfully, we began to see more clearly that God is the source of all law, and this law is actually the supreme governor of everyone. As Love, God couldn’t motivate anyone to be a victimizer or a victim. We realized that whoever had done this wasn’t hopelessly corrupt, but fundamentally a child of God, in spite of appearances. It was an important first step in moving away from fear toward forgiveness.
Next, a healing thought came with the realization of God as Love: If Love’s creation is made in His reflection, then God’s family lives in peaceful unity, not in selfish or predatory greed.
Finally, we came to understand without question that God’s law could not be violated by some evil design or act. God is omnipotent, and anything against the design of good holds no true power. We began to feel the freedom, joy, and security we’d felt before this event – and it never left. Not long after praying this way, the issue was resolved decisively, against what was predicted, and we received our tax refund check.
The Monitor’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, was clearly aware that any threat to the security and harmony of society was really no match at all for the ultimate power of the Christ – the active, healing presence of God in our lives. She wrote: “At this immortal hour, all human hate, pride, greed, lust should bow and declare Christ’s power, and the reign of Truth and Life divine should make man’s being pure and blest” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 257).
The divine power that governs each of us is of higher, lasting origins and stronger than anything that seems to interfere with God’s law of Love. Prayer strengthens our spiritual discernment, through which we discover evil’s impotence and our impenetrable spiritual security: a protection that’s never external, but always eternal.