Jehovah’s Witness leaders issue a letter to all elders worldwide providing them with new computer security protocols that they are to implement immediately.
On July 3, 2020, Gajus Glockentin and other staff at the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses received an email from Jehovah’s Witness whistle-blower, Jason Wynne. The email communication recommended the issuance of a letter to all elders worldwide reminding them how important it is to keep their in-box secure and not accessible to third parties.
In Wynne’s letter, he made mention of the fact that an elder cannot claim clergy penitent privilege if his wife has access to his JW.org in-box. Therefore, he made the following recommendation:
… I think it would be in the best interests of victims of abuse, of elders, and of the organization, if a letter was issued to all elders worldwide reminding them how important it is to keep their inbox secure and not accessible to third parties. You have left yourselves legally open in the past. Let’s try and improve things.
Evidently, the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses took Wynne’s recommendation on board and issued a letter to all elders worldwide. On November 3, 2020, exactly four months after Wynne sent his email, the organization provided branches around the world with new security protocols that elders were to implement immediately. These protocols are included in a section entitled Computer Security Alert in the November 2020 edition of Announcements and Reminders.
Computer Security Alert
The new protocols to be implemented by Jehovah’s Witness elders to help them secure their jw.org credentials and accounts are as follows:
Please be alert to any attempts to compromise your jw.org username and password. Individuals with bad motives may use jwpub accounts to e‐mail dangerous links. Such links are purposely designed to trick you into visiting
malicious websites. Do not enter any personal details, including your username and password, on any website that you did not intentionally visit or that has an address you do not recognize.
Since cybersecurity concerns are ever increasing, it is very important that all jwpub users pay close attention to the following information in order to protect their account. If you need help in understanding this information, please ask other knowledgeable brothers for immediate assistance.
- Protect Your Username and Password:
- Do not share your jw.org password with others. The branch office or any other jwpub user should never contact you to request private account details, such as your username and password. If you receive such a request, do not respond.
- Ensure that your jwpub password is unique and not used for any other accounts.
- Some web browsers offer to remember your password or keep you signed in. Do not use these features on any shared computer, phone, or tablet.
- Always log out when finished using any shared computer, phone, or tablet.
- Log In Only to Official Websites Used by the Organization:
- Individuals with bad motives may use websites that look like official websites used by the organization.
- Do not use Internet search engines to find and navigate to organizational websites. It is best to type in the website address manually.
- Always check the website address in the address bar carefully. If you are not sure it is an official website, do not enter your username and password.
- Do Not Be Quick to Click: If you receive a jwpub e‐mail with a link, do not be quick to click on it. Harmful links can infect your computer, phone, or tablet if you click on or open them.
- What should you do if you receive a jwpub e‐mail with a link?
- If you were not expecting an e‐mail with a link, do not click on the link.
- If possible, contact the sender by a means other than jw.pub e‐mail, such as by video call, phone call, or text message, in order to confirm that he sent the e‐mail with the link.
- If he did not send the e‐mail with the link, or if you cannot confirm that he did, report the matter by calling the Computer Help Desk at the branch office and await further direction.—Select the “Contact Us” link at the bottom of the webpage when logged in to jw.org.
- How do you determine if a link is safe?
- Computers: Hover over the link with your mouse pointer, but do not click. The real address of the link will display. (See example below.) If you do not recognize the real address, do not click on the link.
- Phones and Tablets: Press and hold the link. The real address of the link will display. (See example below.) If you do not recognize the real address, do not tap on the link.
- Review Your Login History: If you have reasons to believe someone else is using your jwpub account, change your password immediately.
- Security Updates: Regularly apply the latest security updates to your computer, phone, or tablet.
“A Welcome Improvement” in Computer Security
Wynne was asked if he welcomed these developments and whether they had any adverse impact on the work that advocates are doing for positive change in the organization.
“I see the implementation of these security protocols as a welcome improvement. There are some things that the organization does well and there are other things that it needs to improve on. One of those areas that it has needed to improve on is computer security. Most elder’s pastoral activities are completed electronically. Very little is done by hand these days.
“If someone has access to an elder’s jw.org inbox, other than the elder himself, it raises a number of serious concerns. Firstly, it removes an elder’s right to clergy / penitent privilege. Secondly, it leaves them open to fines for possible data protection breaches. Thirdly, and probably most importantly, it compromises the security of the personal data that they hold on file. Elders have a lot of data about members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, including letters of introduction, disfellowshipping records, publisher records and a host of other sensitive personal data.
“Improving the security of an elder’s in-box does not affect the work I am doing, or the work other advocates and activists are doing. We work hard to bring transparency, openness and honesty to the Jehovah’s Witness organization. It would be grossly hypocritical of us if we were involved in illegal activities such as hacking into an elders account.
“We are still getting content that helps us in our work, despite these security improvements. The very fact that we have this letter proves that. We will continue to do our work honestly and openly, and in time we hope to make further improvements within this organization that has a direct impact on our lives.”