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Truth, lies and filtering

Read: 17834 Comments: 2 Rating: 9

Friday, January 26, 2018

Fake news contains false information about facts and events.

The information we receive and process influences our actions.

True premises lead to true conclusions.

False premises lead to false conclusions.

Every normal person would rather receive credible information than lies. The Dr.Web Parental Control helps our users accomplish this task—it removes sites featuring unwanted content, including scams and false data, from their field of view. Sometimes distinguishing between lies and the truth can be difficult and time consuming (especially if we speak about the time spent by analysts on such work).

Last year, in 2016, we witnessed the emergence of a new phenomenon—news posts promoting a certain idea.

The hackers behind Methbot crafted over 250,000 fake sites purportedly belonging (and featuring the design of the genuine sites) to large companies and publishers (ESPN, Vogue, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Verizon and others). Over 570,000 IP addresses were hijacked to run automated web browsers and thus imitate users "watching" video ads on fabricated sites. White Ops estimates that as many as 300,000,000 video ads are "watched" by the bots on a daily basis. It is believed that the criminals are using 800-1,200 servers located in the USA and the Netherlands.

With lots of IP addresses, fake social media accounts, altered geolocation data and fake mouse movements, the cybercriminals create the impression that they can deliver target audiences in the millions. By doing so, they acquire large amounts of money from their customers (primarily US companies).

This manipulation technique is not exactly new —in Russia people have fallen to this kind of news before.

On December 16, right after Black Monday when the ruble exchange rate plunged, some media outlets claimed that Sberbank would no longer be granting loans to individuals. This information was supposedly provided by a trusted source from the bank's management.

Panic in various regions of Russia was fuelled not only via news agencies, social media and forums—otherwise, it could still be chalked up as a coincidence or random occurrence. Someone was orchestrating a hubbub around the bank's ATMs. People also received short messages encouraging them to withdraw all the cash they could. Here is a typical example: "An emergency repost! Tonight Sberbank is suspending its bank card-related services indefinitely. This measure is presumably being introduced due to the plunging exchange rate and the transition to a single electronic currency. To avoid problems, withdraw your cash now!"

Then things snowballed very quickly, with news reports about people taking ATMs by storm appearing periodically... The similarity between the provocative messages on social media and the mass SMS mailing rules out the possibility that this was an accident. A campaign of this magnitude surely required a substantial investment that had to be controlled from somewhere.

And it may seem like a good idea for the Parental Control to filter out fake news posts of this kind too. But how can this be accomplished?

Doctor Web employees are unable to verify the credibility of every single news post—all the more so since the difference between what’s fake and what’s real often lies only in the nuances of the narrative. Will people panic if they are about to run out of money? Sure!

And fake news texts often end up on the webpages of respected media outlets — should we block access to those too? Not to mention the fact that, more often than not, news headlines are only remotely related to the content that follows them. And how much will a news story change once it passes through several news sites and ends up as a story retold on a forum?

#fraud #social_engineering #terminology

The Anti-virus Times recommends

Don't expect an anti-virus to solve all of your problems. We discover rogue sites that distribute misleading information and recommend that users refrain from visiting them. But we can't filter out news posts on respected sites.


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