Fake news — we’ve all heard the phrase over the past couple of years. However, we sometimes struggle to grasp the far-reaching extent of its impact.
With the next generation moving to online and social media as their go-to news source, and a good chunk of what is put out on social media being fake, it’s left up to the reader to determine whether the information is true or not.
When people start to believe everything they read , it makes the world a very unpredictable place. With no indicators of the source or truth of the news on social media, many democracies and other kinds of nation-states will struggle with issues of transparency and could become politically unstable as a result. It only takes one fake news story within a trustworthy source to devalue the entire news feed, forcing us to question what’s real and what isn’t.
To put it bluntly, fake news itself is a form of cyberattack that will only grow significantly in 2018 and beyond.
Fake News Will Lead to a Cyberwar
Cyberattacks have now become a major disruption to our way of life, filling our daily news and feeds with fake information to influence our actions and change the outcome of vital decisions. Rather than focusing on important public needs like tax, health, and education, many governments are now embroiled in trust and transparency challenges caused by the continuous disruption from cyberattacks.
Recent cyber incidents have been stealing huge amounts of personal and politically sensitive information that”s then being used to pursue and influence our nation’s decision making. When the purpose of a cyberattack from another nation-state is to influence our way of life or devalue our democracy, should it be considered an act of war?
Large troll factories and botnet farms are using stolen personal information to guarantee that our news feeds are filled with fake information that attracts reactions to respond and participate. It all starts from a machine-controlled bot, which, rather than trying to get you to click on a link or install malicious malware, attempts to get you to share malicious information, influence your decisions, and perhaps distrust your own government.
National Ownership of Solutions Lacking
One thing that’s clear is that cyberattacks are crossing country borders without nation-states taking responsibility for deterrence. We know that cybercriminal groups are behind many of the major cyber incidents in recent years, including major data breaches, ransomware installations, or attacks targeting the classified data of government agencies.
Companies and governments have linked these cybercriminal groups to nation states, despite their denials of any involvement. Without clear cooperation and transparency between democracies, this activity will continue, with a full-on cyberwar a possibility.
To prevent such a major catastrophe from occurring, governments and nation- states need to work together with full cooperation and transparency to ensure that cyber attribution is possible and hold each other responsible for the actions of criminal organizations carrying out cyberattacks from within their borders. It is important that governments don’t provide safe havens for cybercriminals to carry out such attacks.
Trust has become an issue in cyberspace, and information attacks are in full swing, with the clear intention of political and social disruption. This itself should be considered an intent of war. It’s time for governments to act.
Joe Carson is the chief security scientist at Thycotic, a security software firm.