Whenever there is confusion and panic as with the Coronavirus pandemic, there will be those trying to profit from it. Sadly, the division in many countries has only be emphasized by COVID-19, so it has been easier for fraudsters to exploit all the confusion out there. Hence, in these times of uncertainty, we connect constantly to our social networks, mainly to watch how this disease evolves and while looking for correct and accurate information, we can be dangerously exposed to fake news.
Information is power, but combined with manipulation propaganda, it provokes a collateral effect of fear, confusion and craziness enhancing the critical situation we are facing. Today we have those effects, as satellites surrounding us daily and slowly walking into our minds in search of pure control.
As I implied, we just need to look for a moment our Facebook, WhatsApp, or News feed to face directly another attack of Social Engineering, and depending on how well we are aware of the situation, we might be or not affected, or we will share the attack (like the COVID) to others, spreading the menace all over the world.
With these difficult circumstances described, here we can enumerate the main vectors propagating scams or fake news. Beware of this “stuff” that is circulating all over the Internet, avoid it at all costs:
- Links suggesting to open a video or an image from hospitals or sick people.
- Information/sites sharing ways to kill the virus, or to cure it miraculously.
- Links/sites asking you for a checkup, or an inspection of your health/sanitary measures.
- Information/sites offering services of buying supplies or medicine.
- Traditional ways of phishing asking credit cards, banking information, accounts or passwords.
Going a bit deeper:
- Sites asking for data to help in hospitals or health centers.
- Information summoning people to vandalize supermarkets because supply chain is apparently broken.
- “Proselytism or illegal actions” from political powers or parties asking to counteract official sanitary information (explicit case from Mexico aka Jalisco major, but extendable to other countries).
- Videos from “professionals” spreading misinformation, no matter if they are reporters or famous people (Twitter accounts, Newspapers, Facebook).
- Fake videos showing sick people in hospitals or showing fake doctors.
Ask yourself the following questions related to the information you seek/find:
- Is it related truly to COVID? Is it helping or not to eradicate pandemic?
- Is the title of news/info sensationalist? Is it only a hook from a not very reputable media/person? (Explicit case in Mexico: Reforma newspaper which spreads fake news constantly).
- What is the original source of the info?
- What kind of media is propagating the information? Is it using WhatsApp, Facebook, traditional media (tv, radio)?
- Is the source a trustable one? Does it appear in trustable media? Do other trustable people share it?
- Does the information ask you something in particular? Does it incorporate political/religious speech?
- Are they trying to over exploit your humanity or feelings, specially in these times of social crisis?
- Does the information go against a particular person/organization?
- Do you remember something very similar in other media, country, in the present or past?
- Does it have an amateur presentation?
- Does the information have no sense according to dates, times, places, situations and people involved?
- Does it have a lot of marketing surrounding it or sponsors?
- Do you think the information might hide a Social Engineering Attack?
If the vast majority of the aforementioned was answered with a “Yes”, then the information you are viewing, or sharing is FAKE and you should eliminate it at all costs. Of course, there are many deep fakes very well built, and it is very complicated even for an expert to identify if a piece of info is real or not.
Unfortunately, there are no algorithms or mechanics to ensure immediately if something is true or false, this is not possible to personalize to every situation and the only way is to inform us and remain vigilant of what can be trustable and what is complete garbage. This was also the idea of this text in the questions provided. One single fake can deliver a chain of complete chaos.
The premise is quite simple: When in doubt, do not share at all, and do not read/watch. Stay aware, stay cautious and do not let the bad guys control your mind with the powers of the “Dark Web”.