Fake News Alerts in India

Modern problems require modern solutions. Facebook, in its war against fake news and misinformation, has now come up with a new solution to alert users about fake news. The tech company has merged tech and human review together to alert users about fake news in videos, images or posts shared on the platform.

The role of third-party fact-checkers

The tech company is working with third-party fact-checkers to identify and review misinformation.

In December 2016, Facebook began a fact-checking programme which now has over 24 partners in 14 countries. In India, some of the third-party fact-checkers include big names like India Today Group, Vishvas.news, Fact Crescendo, BoomLive, and Factly. The Indian government announced the release of an online portal last month to curb fake news on social media platforms.

Facebook harnesses user feedback in addition to third party fact-checkers to identify fake news. A post which has even a little link to false information will automatically be down-ranked by an algorithm. The platform will curtail the reach of accounts or pages for repeat offenders and limit their ability to promote content.

Fake news alerts notifying users posting fake content

Facebook said that it would notify page admins and users when they have shared posts that are suspected to contain false content or misinformation.

It also said it would mark stories as fake news, stating clearly that the primary claims in the post are factually inaccurate.


Unplug Everything: Ransomware Attacks on Cities

Hackers used ransomware to attack the city of New Orleans in December.  The attack was the third ransomware hack on the State of Louisiana, and followed ransomware attacks on other cities.  Of course, the massive attack created an emergency for the city.

The Response:  Unplug everything

Following the attack, the city instructed all of its employees to completely disconnect their systems.  This meant disconnecting wifi and unplugging their computers.

How does one communicate about a cyber attack without using the internet?  New Orleans officials used the city hall public loudspeaker systems to alert employees about the cyber-attack.

The cause of the hack was uncertain. Employees did not respond to phishing emails. Therefore, it was unclear how hackers got access to the city’s systems.


The city appeared prepared to function after such an attack.  Even though its website was down and a great deal of functionality was lost, the city continued to function. Of course, New Orleans police continued to function effectively. They used radios and backup communications to continue their work. Similarly, 911 emergency services continued unabated.  In parallel, other services, like scheduling of building inspections, continued manually.

Previous ransomware attacks on Louisiana’s governments included an attack on its school districts and on the state government’s IT network.   In recent years, Atlanta and Baltimore bore the brunt of ransomware attacks as well.

The Ransomware Dilemma, Magnified

Ransomware attacks put victims in a difficult situation. This is because paying the ransom encourages more ransomware attacks. On the one hand, if victims never paid the ransom, the attacks would disappear.  On the other hand, not paying the ransom means victims will lose valuable data.  Naturally, that can make life very difficult and even cripple businesses.

The problem is magnified for governments.  Their data relates not “just” to an individual or a business, but to entire cities and states.  The potential harm is on a massive, public scale.



Different Reasons to Ban Political Ads



Even Facebook, which allows political ads, can still ban them. Just for different reasons.

Facebook made a well-known decision to allow political ads, which led to a great deal of discussion. (By contrast, Twitter decided to ban them altogether.) Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has strongly defended his company’s policies. He argued that in a democracy, people should be able to see clearly what politicians are saying. That way they can make their own judgements.

Facebook’s decision raises many questions. These include whether it is even possible to allow political ads without opening the door to fake news and misinformation.

Election laws were written long before campaigns took to social media and started sending individually targeted posts and messages through sites like Twitter and Facebook.  This can allow for more information—and more misinformation.  People can learn about their candidates, but how much of what they learn is tainted and untrue?  These are important issues about political advertisement on social media generally.

Independent Reasons to Ban Ads

However, sometimes there are independent reasons to ban ads.

Recently, the BBC gave Facebook an open and shut reason for banning a political ad by Britain’s conservative Tory party. The ad, which showcased some of the BBC’s popular presenters speaking about Brexit delays, upset the BBC. The BBC argued that the ad took the clips of its presenters out of context. It also said that it falsely made it appear as if the BBC supported the Tory party. Therefore, it argued, the ad could damage its impartiality, which is so essential to a news service.

Here’s why Facebook deleted the ad on time

Facebook deleted the ad, citing its violation of the BBC’s intellectual property rights. Facebook told the media that it will act in accordance with its policies and take required actions whenever it receives valid IP claims against content on its platform.

The Tory party argued that other political parties use BBC footage, and that it was being singled out by the BBC for IP enforcement of its Facebook ads.


Attack of the Ransomware


A significant increase in cyber breaches in the first half of 2019

Cybersecurity experts from Bitdefender, a cybersecurity and antivirus company based in Romania, noted a significant hike in ransomware – over 64.66% – from January to May 2019. This is in addition to a 74% increase in ransomware-related cyber breaches since last year.

One of the most widespread ransomwares, GandCrab, is no longer a  major threat  anymore.  Nevertheless, eliminating it did not reduce the overall threat. Instead, new threats come up every week and every month, and security solutions are now more important than ever for businesses, governments and non-profits.

Some ransomware has focused on certain industries and has targeted specific types of infrastructure like educational institutions, and large organizations.  Other ransomware is less discriminating.


The expansion of the ransomware market


The proliferation of ransomware gets a significant boost from the lack of security solutions and the “it won’t happen to us” attitude that many organizations and businesses still cling to. Furthermore, to get their data back, affected organizations pay ransoms in cryptocurrency, which in turn encourages further attacks.


With more than 832 million types of malware out there, organizations across the gamut are at risk.  Diligent implementation of cybersecurity solutions and prevention tools are essential to detect and deter potential cyberattacks.


Hospitals a Choice Target for Cyber Attacks

Complex computer and data systems.  Sensitive personal information.  The need to function without interruption or downtime.  Insufficient cyber-defenses.  These are some of the weaknesses that make hospitals a target of choice for hackers and cyber attackers.

This year alone, approximately 32 million people have had their sensitive health-related information breached by hackers in over 311 cyberattack incidents against health care providers.  These attacks, even when not directly targeting patient care, have led to increased death rates among heart patients.

Complex Systems and a Large Amount of Data

The complex computer and data systems of hospitals make them an easy target for hackers.   Hospitals have to maintain several systems simultaneously to work properly. This includes medical records of people, internet-connected medical devices, and billing records. After mergers with other organizations, which have been increasing in recent years, the systems get even more complicated and confusing.

Cybersecurity experts believe that the hospitals make an attractive target for cybercriminals because hackers know that the hospitals have a complex network and insufficient cybersecurity tools. Furthermore, hospitals have to be open 24/7 and cannot afford any interruptions, making them a soft target.  Cybercriminals are aware that their ransomware demands won’t go unanswered when it comes to hospitals and public health.

Additionally, hospitals also often have weak cybersecurity and do not receive significant assistance from the government to shore up their cyber defences.

Attractive Information

Hackers also target hospitals because they have sensitive data like patient records, social security, and patient addresses. Hackers know that they can sell such data and earn large amount of money on the dark web.


Spotting Fake News: Not As Easy as People Think

Fake news is pretty confusing

Most people think they are very good at identifying fake news. But a recent study suggests that users have a lot of trouble telling the difference between fact and fiction.

The participants of the study were fitted with a wireless EEG
(electroencephalography) headset that tracked their brain while they read political news headlines that were similar to those found on Facebook.

Surprisingly, participants were able to assess only 44% of the given political news accurately. According to the researchers, the participants confused some of the fake news as truth because it conformed to their pre-existing beliefs and biases.  When fake news confirmed their pre-existing beliefs, they tended to view it as true. The low accuracy rate in identifying fake news shows that most users are not good at evaluating the  credibility of news found on social media, like a Facebook news feed, for example.

Patricia Moravec, the study’s lead author, said that everyone believes that they are better than the average person at detecting fake news, but that is simply not possible.

We are not as good as we think at detecting fake news

When it comes to detecting fake news, we are not as good as we think.

The research was done with the help of 80 social-media-proficient undergraduate students who were asked to answer at least 10 questions about their own political beliefs before taking part in the study.