What Is Disinformation?


We live in a world of facts and information which we use to form our opinions and make decisions. Sometimes those facts are incorrect, and we make poor decisions. But what if the information we receive is maliciously created to be incorrect?

Social Media and Disinformation

Did you know that people are more likely to believe and share what they have seen on the Internet or social media? The bad guys know that, and that’s why disinformation is such a powerful tactic.

However, it’s not just the bad guys who spread disinformation. According to researchers at MIT, normal users, just like you, are 70 percent more likely to pass along false items than real items. This is often because they are designed to be more appealing to share than traditional news. This can cause you and your organization real harm.

An Attack Against the Truth:

An Example of Disinformation

A rumor began about the newest generation of mobile phone network technology, commonly referred to as 5G. It was suggested that these 5G networks were responsible

for the creation and transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19, aka coronavirus disease 2019.


Seems pretty far-fetched, doesn’t it? But wait, it gets worse. Bad actors took

this information and actively promoted it using comments on conspiracy

websites and social media networks. They encouraged people to share and

spread this information as well as take steps to protect themselves.


Within days, cell phone towers across Europe and the United States were being attacked and set on fire. Government agencies were forced to distribute security bulletins, warning service providers about the imminent risks their networks faced.

Impacting Your Organization

Disinformation campaigns aren’t limited to individual victims and are often created by sophisticated groups. Organizations are often targeted, resulting in great harm. There are three main reasons why:

Damage to Reputation

Some attacks want to damage an organization’s reputation and create ill-will with its customers.

Financial Gain

Some attacks are created to allow the scammer to profit financially. One example is known as a “pump and dump,” where false press releases and social media are used to promote a company and pump up its stock value. Then the scammer sells, or dumps, the stock for a large gain.

Destroying Public Confidence

Some attacks are carried out by foreign actors, countries, and individuals, looking to harm organizations in other countries and drive customers to competitors that they prefer.

Can You Spot the Made-Up Headline?

One of the headlines below is an actual example of disinformation. The other two headlines are taken from reputable news sources. Can you guess which headline is disinformation?

“A Train Left 25 Seconds Early and The West Japan Railway Company Wants Everyone to Know It’s Really, Really Sorry!”

••••

“Tesla’s Self-Driving Vehicle Caught on Video in A Fatal Hit and Run with A Robot Prototype!”

••••

“AirAsia Baggage Handlers Kiss and Hug Passengers’ Luggage in Bizarre Photo Shoot!”

The Tesla headline was taken from an actual disinformation campaign. As you can imagine, this caused some rather negative press for Tesla. It was later discovered that the video showing the supposed “murder” of the prototype robot was staged. The other two examples are legitimate headlines that really happened.

Sometimes it’s really hard to tell the difference. That’s why it’s so important to stop, look, and think before you share information that seems questionable.

DISINFORMATION:

False information intentionally created to deceive and mislead.

THREAT ACTOR’S TOOLS:

Bots, short for computer “robots,” are software programs that can perform automated tasks and can mimic typical online human actions, such as making, liking, and sharing social media posts. Computers infected with malicious bots can be used to spread disinformation and inflate the popularity of selected posts and items.

Deepfakes, are audio files, videos, or photos that have been tampered with to look and sound like something they are not.

Targeting, takes all of the information available about you and makes predictions about disinformation you might be receptive to.

Trolls, are Individuals who deliberately say false things online to cause negative reactions, create controversy, and ruin reputations.

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