Cybersecurity and Disinformation
By Matt Brennan
Cybersecurity and disinformation are heavily intertwined in the U.S. and around the globe. With a pandemic, social unrest, and important elections happening all over, accurate information for the public is more critical than ever. In many places, human safety is at stake, and we need to be able to trust the information that we receive.
What happens when there are very few safeguards on that information? Anyone can publish a website, social media posts, or videos regardless of the accuracy of their message. People who are receiving misinformation or disinformation may not be aware that it’s even occurring.
According to Dictionary.com, misinformation is false information spread regardless of the intent to mislead. We’ve all told a story and forgotten the details. (Think about how the size of the fish increases every time you tell the story.) The childhood game of telephone is a prime example of how quickly misinformation can spread from one telling of a story to the next.
Disinformation on the other hand, is knowingly spreading false information. This could be spread through false or deliberately misleading news or political statements. Propaganda can have its roots in disinformation from time to time.
So, Where Does the Role of Cybersecurity Come In?
Cybersecurity and disinformation will remain heavily intertwined as the technologies that cybercriminals use continue to advance. As mentioned before, we are in turbulent times with the raging pandemic, social unrest, and contentious elections. Hackers may play on our sensitivities to these issues, providing disinformation, in hopes to get us to provide sensitive data in phishing scams.
They may go as far as registering fake domains and opening social media accounts, in an effort to make the entire scam appear legitimate from beginning to end.
But the stakes can go steeper than any one person as a victim. Entire countries can put out disinformation campaigns in an effort to sway another country’s election. Fake charities are set up as a way to scam innocent people into providing money.
These and other methods often have very real-world ramifications.
Cybersecurity and Disinformation – Taking Action
Disinformation can be a threat to society as a whole. It’s important for cybersecurity officials to make a plan and take action against harmful disinformation. IT departments, technology professionals, and government officials must work together to protect the integrity of organizations and institutions while protecting citizens.
Social media companies have taken action with disclaimers about the accuracy of a post, or removing it from their platforms altogether. IT officials can work to have fake sites, or spoof sites taken down. They may spoof large companies or agencies in an attempt to fool people.
It’s important to realize that cybercriminals won’t operate with the same ideals or ethics instilled in most of us. The disinformation that they weaponize in order to exploit people online can and should be stopped. IT and cybersecurity professionals are in a unique position to put a check on this type of crime.