In the new information age we live in, cyber threats represent an ever-growing and dangerous form of intimidation and pressure. These threats represent a new tool of warfare and seek to reap chaos and distrust. While much attention is focused on different nation-states utilizing cyber warfare against enemy nation-states, we often forget that the danger may not always be external.
Cyber threats are not an issue only when it comes from an external source. While enemy nations may try and influence opinion through this channel, countries often have to face intra-state threats within their own territories. These can be in the form of:
Dissemination of fake news
Fake news is a huge problem facing almost every major country. A study by Oxford University found evidence of formally organized social media manipulation campaigns in 48 countries in 2018, up from 28 from a similar study in 2017. In countries like India, this problem is acute and has often been linked to violence.
Large scale misinformation campaigns are organized by parties to score brownie points against each other. Fake news is created and freely distributed, especially among WhatsApp, with thousands of people forwarding the news to each other, creating an ecosystem of false information.
Analyzing the kind of fake news that is being disseminated can show that there is a pattern. Political parties disseminate news or information which tries to portray their own party in good light and other parties in a bad light in the form of morphed videos, photos or out of context audio clips.
In democracies, winning elections is key. And to win elections, you need to influence the voting populace. With the influence of low-cost Internet, social media has become a new battleground for parties.
Parties run concerted campaigns on social media to vilify each other and at times, even launch attacks against each other. They employ bots as well on social media to amplify their messages and reach a larger audience, all in the hope of winning an election. The collateral damage is that the atmosphere becomes vitiated and polarized, giving rise to violence and a lack of civility in discourse.
Exploiting social media
Nowadays, a common complaint about social media channels is how it has been taken over by political parties. Social media as a whole, as mentioned in the last point, has become a battleground. Parties now spend huge amounts of money and employ a large number of people to control the narrative on social media.
It is important not to get sucked into this fake news vortex and keep the head above the water. Remember, fake news thrives on emotion, so maintain your logical senses. Some tips to combat fake news are:
- Do not believe anything you receive or see on social media. Check it from different sources, especially good ones, and only then make up your mind on it.
- On no account, should you forward a message you receive which talks about a piece of information you are not sure of.
- If you find accounts propagating fake news, report them immediately using the options provided on social media.
- Do not trust any information because it ties in with your own views and opinions. Keep your logic intact and ensure that you don’t get trapped into the fake news ecosystem.
Seqrite is the enterprise security brand of Quick Heal Technologies Ltd., which offers
world-class enterprise cybersecurity solutions.
This is the second article in the #SeqriteonElectionSecurity series. Watch this space to get more updates on protection of elections, citizens, and voting infrastructure from cyberattacks or cyber threats.