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Will Fake News Lead to the Next Cyber War?

March 16th, 2018


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Fake news is running rampant across all media outlets. While you may not take them seriously, these untrue news stories are playing with your emotions and have serious security implications.

With over half the world’s population online and using social media, news travels fast. And sometimes the wrong news gets spread. What happens when it’s by our most trusted news source? How are readers able to determine whether the information is true or not? If readers continue to get ‘fooled’ by fake news the world will become an unpredictable place.

Only one fake news story from a trustworthy source can devalue an entire news feed

It wasn’t too long ago we could choose our news source with a high level of confidence in its accuracy. Today, with social media, both trusted and fake stories are merging as one. Readers must decide what’s true, and what’s fake. Many countries, democracies, and nation-states now deal with the possibility of the wrong story getting spread by hackers tapping into our fears and using psychological tricks. There is no question, fake news is a form of cyber-attack and we have yet to see its real impact

How Fake News Will Lead to the Next Cyber War

Every day cyber-attacks disrupt our way of life by filling our social feeds with fake information to lure us into clicking links, and ultimately influencing our actions. They are dangerous and change the outcome of critical decisions. Many governments must now concentrate on trust challenges caused by the continuous disruption from fake news instead of attending to the important needs of their citizens, such as their health and education. We’ve witnessed governments increase their focus on recent cyber incidents, but have yet to see any transparency in these attacks.

The latest cyber-attacks have resulted in stolen personal and sensitive information that has in turn been used to influence our nation’s decision making. These notable incidents include: Yahoo, Equifax and Ashley Madison, which leaked information that was then shared on news feeds to trigger emotional reactions.

How do they do it? Troll factories and botnet farms use stolen personal information and ensure our social streams are filled with fake news, encouraging the reader to participate in the conversation and to get their family and friends involved. Our strongest emotions come into play and hackers take advantage of our beliefs to share malicious information to our trusted circles, spreading their attack.

Who is responsible?

Cyber-attacks are crossing country borders and taking away the legitimacy of real news. When a cyber-attack from another nation-state uses information to influence our way or life, our society, or the outcome of our democracy, should this not be considered an act of war?

We are told cyber-criminal groups are behind the recent cyber incidents including the biggest data breaches and the attacks on government agencies’ classified data. The top cyber security firms, including FireEye and Symantec, have found evidence that cyber-criminal groups are linked to nation-states and notable attacks such as the WannaCry Ransomware incident. Unfortunately, without concrete evidence, those nation-states denied involvement. This will continue to grow as a major issue and even poses the question: will this eventually lead to a full-on cyber war?

International Cooperation Needed

Now, more than ever, governments and nation-states must cooperate to prevent a major catastrophe. They must take responsibility for criminal activity carried out within their own countries’ borders. And it may not be too far off. The recent World Economic Forum announced a new Global Center for Cybersecurity with the main goal being to establish cooperation among governments in the cyber world.

Fake news undercuts trust and is a form of cyber-attack. Governments need to act to end the spread of fake news immediately before a major catastrophe occurs.

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Joseph Carson

Joseph Carson has over 25 years' experience in enterprise security, is the author of "Privileged Account Management for Dummies" and "Cybersecurity for Dummies", and is a cyber security professional and ethical hacker. Joseph is a cyber security advisor to several governments, critical infrastructure, financial and transportation industries, speaking at conferences globally. Joseph serves as the Chief Security Scientist at Thycotic.

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