Bad actors prey on uncertainty, exploiting the public through rumours and intentionally false information. As with all major world events, the coronavirus is experiencing growing dissemination of “fake news”, including reports about cures and methods of prevention. This causes panic at best, and can lead to harm to those who consume and follow the information, but is most often intended simply to generate chaos and mistrust.
We are all guilty of passing along such false information innocently at times. In more serious cases, spread of this false information may be propagated by entities with an interest in disruption, profiteering, or pushing a particular agenda. These entities might include government-led organisations, anti-government factions, cybercriminals, and hacktivists.
How to Identify “Fake News” and Disinformation
Source Evaluation – One of the most important steps is to review the reputation and credibility of the media source. If the source is not well known you should identify their views and biases by reviewing their background and other content they published. Note that a source can look credible, but in fact, the article can be hosted on a different domain. ABCNews.Com.Co was a website that used to post fake news stories and have their stories seem legitimate only by similarity to another reliable news source.
Author Evaluation – every text you find online has been written by a person or persons with their own set of beliefs and values. A good way to understand who the author is to try to look for other articles by them on the same site and see the author’s viewpoint. They could also have their details on a page listing their history and experience, which is assuming an author is a real person and not a pseudonym. Credible writers will usually try their best to keep in line with reporting high-quality content based on relevant data, and not jump into far-fetched conclusions or make bold exclamation without a strong basis. Checking this kind of information out could also help your assessment of how reliable the article is.
Suspicious Accounts on Social Networks – Social media accounts, posts, tweets, blogs, and other social channels generate a significant amount of information and disinformation. Content, once posted, can spread online like fire, even when there’s no real person behind the accounts. The content they generate is liked, retweeted and shared by unsuspecting users. Most social media services today are flooded with accounts opened only for those reasons, so much that current assessment is that 5% of users are not genuine and can be called social bots. In the context of the Coronavirus crisis, the activity of some of these fake users is on the rise, and social media giants like Facebook are trying to fight the spreading of the Corona fake news – see for example Politico’s article about that topic.
Read Beyond the Headlines – many times, a headline represents a limited part of the story, in an attempt to generate more traffic for the article. For that reason, headlines can sometimes seem like “clickbait”, expressing an exaggerated stance or using strong phrasing. Those kinds of headlines attempt to generate a reader’s emotional response, basing their action on the fact that many people don’t read more than the headline. Whenever you encounter a headline like this, consider it another hint for fake news.
The Coronavirus crisis is not only a health issue, as it’s changing the way we work, learn, travel, and interact with each other. Therefore, keeping safe in this new situation requires us to be vigilant to digital threats, cyber-attacks and online crimes as well. This is true for our organisations, ourselves and our loved ones, including our children who learn from home and spend a significant amount of time online.
The Institute of Advanced Cyber Defence aims to advance both the quantity and quality of knowledge and skills in the domain of cyber intelligence and security. The Institute’s expertise is based on first-hand experience protecting organisations from cyber threats and attacks, as well as on the expertise of a network of companies from tier-1 countries that are global leaders in advanced cyber defence services and solutions. Their offerings are military-grade and find their origins in law enforcement and national security, with their team members often having served in leadership positions in the world’s elite national cyber defence units. As such, our pedigree is unmatched and with our partners we seek to further develop and transfer this know-how for the benefit of individuals and organisations alike via a number of avenues.
Cybint is The Institute of Advanced Cyber Defence’s global education partner. Cybint is an international cyber education leader committed to solving the significant global shortage of cyber security experts and putting an end to the growing threat of cyber crimes, by helping financial institutions, companies, government agencies and universities to develop cyber security and intelligence capabilities.
In certain circumstances we call on experts from other partners like providers of amongst others cyber intelligence and security consulting services, data mining solutions, as well as breach attack simulation software.