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Florida Baptists continue investigation of $700K cyber attack

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP) — An investigation continues into how more than $700,000 in funds was stolen from the Florida Baptist Convention (FBC) through a cyberattack, with no additional details available at this time, a spokesperson for the convention told Baptist Press today (May 16).

The convention shared in May 10 statement that “an incident of financial fraud” had taken place through a transaction “related to a payment … to one of our SBC entities.” The crime was reported to the FBI and local law enforcement as well as the FBC’s insurance carrier, bank and auditing firm.

Another statement the following day said the action was perpetrated through “fraudulent emails” and related to an account with Send Network Florida in partnership with the North American Mission Board (NAMB).

The most recent statement, issued May 15, reported federal and state investigators were working alongside FBC internal and external auditors on the case.

“Despite existing security protocols, training, regular information systems upgrades, and advanced detection software, we are working to further reinforce our level of information technology security,” that statement added. “We remain prayerful that some of this loss may be mitigated through insurance and/or the recovery of stolen funds.”

No FBC employees are currently suspects, the convention said May 10.

Reserve funds will be utilized to fulfill commitments toward supporting Florida churches and cooperating ministries. Meanwhile, the state convention’s administrative and finance committees have formed a subcommittee to provide oversight into the investigation and recommend steps based on the audit.

“As you can imagine, our convention staff and state board of missions is distraught over this loss of financial resources,” read the May 10 statement. “It is our desire in all that we do to bring glory to our Lord and Savior, and to continue earning the trust of the churches we serve when we distribute the sacrificial resources given through tithes and offerings.”

The news comes months after online scammers stole $793,000 from a North Carolina church through an email scheme. Recently, Indiana’s attorney general issued a warning for non-profits and religious groups to be aware of a possible increase in cyberattacks.

“NAMB adheres to robust cyber and data security protocols, follows best-in-class accounting principles and internal controls and regularly conducts staff training and system testing to protect the resources Southern Baptists so generously entrust to us,” said NAMB spokesman Mike Ebert. “We have and will continue to support our ministry partners as they seek to do the same.”

The “highly sophisticated cyber crime” will not deter the FBC in ministry partnerships, though the state convention urged pastors and churches to “remain diligent with the security of their IT and financial systems.”

“We remain confident in our SBC entities, their financial and structural integrity and our missional financial partnerships,” a statement read.