Fake News

I’d like to bring to your attention this week a new trend of “Fake News”, currently appearing on a great number of websites, including Facebook, Google and Twitter. Fake News is posted for a number of reasons: trying to influence opinion, attacking a political opponent (the 2016 Presidential election is a prime example); stock manipulation scams, to sell advertising and most popularly to shock people into clicking on the link and then infect their machine with malware (celebrity deaths).

For example, one of my customers saw a supposedly genuine news story on Facebook reporting that Noel Edmonds had died. When he clicked on the link, the entire page tuned into a huge virus warning saying he had less than 5 minutes to phone the support number at the bottom of the page otherwise his computer would become inoperable. This was a ruse (there was no virus) and just an excuse for the offending company to charge £150 for 10 minutes of support as well as selling him some anti-virus for a further £20.

Another example is the advert claiming you can become a millionaire overnight. These ads are usually placed next to an image of a famous person of great wealth and the scheme is described as his/her secret and people are encouraged to sign up.

So how do you know if a news story or advert is real or fake?
• Avoid websites that end in “lo”, for example Newslo. These sites take pieces of accurate information and then package that information with other false or misleading “facts”.
• Watch out for websites that end in “.com.co” as they are often fake versions of real news sources, and strange or unusual domain names are a big Red Flag.
• Check to see if other known and reputable news sites, such as the BBC are also reporting on the story.
• If it is an anonymous story and there is no known / trusted author, it’s probably fake.

To summarise, consider the source, double check if the data is correct using other reliable sources, and most importantly Think Before You Click!

If you do happen to click on a fake news story, you will need to force your browser to shut down. To do this, press CTRL-ALT-DELETE (all at the same time), open Task Manager, then select your web browser (it’ll probably be called Edge, Chrome, Firefox or iexplore) and click the End Task button. This will kill the fake virus web page. Once you have done this, you can reopen your web browser BUT DO NOT TRY TO RESTORE THE PREVIOUS SESSION.

And please, if ever you see a fake story, do report it to the platform you found it on.

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Philip Brooks