Category: Current events

Being aware of fake news in the UK

Previous HomeNetworking01.info coverage on this topic UK Flag

Silicon Valley Starts A War Against Fake News

Fact Checking Now Part Of The Online Media Aggregation Function

Useful UK-focused resources

FullFact.org (UK independent factchecking charity)

BBC Reality Check

Channel 4 News FactCheck

Political Parties

A few of the main political parties to watch in the UK

Conservatives (Tories)

Labour

Liberal Democrats

Green Party

UK Independence Party

Scottish National Party

Plaid Cymru (Party Of Wales)

Ulster Unionist Party

Sinn Fein

My Comments and advice

A key issue that is affecting how newsworthy events are covered and what people should become aware of in the news is the rise of propaganda, satire and similar information disguised as news. This situation is being described as “fake news”, “post-truth” and “alternative facts” and a significant number of academics have described it as a reason why Donald Trump became President of the USA or why the British citizens wanted the UK to leave the European Union.

I am giving some space in HomeNetworking01.info to the fake-news topic because an increasing number of people are obtaining their daily news from online sources using a smartphone, tablet or computer. This may be in addition to the traditional papers or the radio or TV newscasts and current-affairs shows or in lieu of these resources.

There have been many factors that have led to a fertile ground for fake news to spread. One of these is that most of us are using online search / aggregation services and social media as our news sources. Similarly, due to reduced circulation or ratings, various well-known news publishers and broadcasters are cutting back on their news budgets which then reduce the number of journalists in the newsroom or reduce news coverage to a quality not dissimilar to a news bulletin offered by a music-focused radio station.

Add to this the fact that it is relatively cheap and easy to set up a Website that looks very enticing thanks to low-cost “no-questions-asked” Web-host services and easy-to-use content management systems. It has led to the rise of Websites that carry propaganda or other material dressed up as news with this material being of questionable accuracy or value. Let’s not forget that it is easy to use Twitter or Facebook to share articles with our friends or followers especially if these articles support our beliefs.

Autocomplete list in Google Search Web user interface

Google users can report Autocomplete suggestions that they come across in their search-engine experience/

It is also made worse by the cross-border nature of the Internet where one can set up a Website or social-media presence in one country to target citizens in another country with questionable messages. This makes it easier to run the propaganda but avoid being caught out by a broadcast-standards or election-oversight authority or the judicial system in the target jurisdiction.

The fact that the UK are going to the polls for a general election this year means that Britons will become more vulnerable to the fake-news phenomenon. This is a situation that is also affecting France and Germany, two of continental Europe’s major economic, political and population centres who either are in the throes of completing a general election.

Reporting autocomplete suggestions in Google Search Web user experience

What you see when you report autocomplete suggestions in the Google Search Web user experience

The Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Damian Collins (Conservatives), has raised this issue concerning Facebook and urging them to filter out fake news. This is although Silicon Valley have been taking steps to combat this problem through the following actions:

  • “turn off the money-supply tap” by refusing to partner their ad networks with fake-news sites or apps
  • engage with fact-checking organisations and departments that are either part of established newsrooms or universities to simplify the ability for their users to check the veracity of a claim
  • implementing a feedback loop to allow users to report auto-complete search suggestions, “snippets” answers, social-media posts and similar material shown in their sites, including the ability to report items as fake news
  • maintaining stronger user-account management and system security including eliminating accounts used just to deliver fake news and propaganda
  • modifying search-engine ranking algorithm or “trending-stories” listing algorithms to make it harder for fake news to surface.

What can you do?

Look for information that qualifies the kind of story if you are viewing a collection of headlines like a search or news-aggregation site or app. For example, Google has implemented tagging in their Google News aggregation site and apps such as “satire”.

Trust your gut reaction to that claim that is being offered in that Facebook post before you share it. If you find that the story sounds like exaggeration or is “off the beam”, it sounds like fake news. As well, the copy in many fake-news articles is written in a way to whip up anger or other immediate sentiment.

Check the host Website or use a search engine to see if trusted sources, especially the ones you trust, are covering the story. As well, if your browser offers a plug-in or extension that highlights fake-news and questionable content, it may be worth adding this feature.

Following news from one or more trusted news sources (including their online presence) may be the way to go to verify news being pushed around on the Internet.

For example, switching on the radio or the telly for the news may be a good idea so as to be sure of what really is going on with this election. In the case of the radio, you may find that BBC Radio 4, BBC Local Radio or a talk-focused independent station like LBC may be the better resource for deeper coverage of the election. Music stations who are part of the same family as a news or talk station such as the BBC stations or Capital, Heart and Classic FM who are part of the same family as LBC can also be of value if you use their short news bulletins as a news source. This is because their news bulletins are fed by the newsroom that serves the talk station.

As well, visit the online sites offered by trusted publishers and broadcasters to check the news in relationship to what the parties are saying. It also includes heading to Websites operated by the various parties or candidates so you can get the facts and policies “from the horse’s mouth”.

You also must take advantage of the feedback loop that Facebook, Google and other online services offer to call out questionable content that appears during the election period. Typically this will be options to report the content or autocomplete hit as something like being inappropriate.

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Silicon Valley starts a war against fake news

Article

Facebook and Google to block ads on fake news websites | Adnews

Facebook Employees Are In Revolt Over Fake News | Gizmodo

Google and Facebook Take Aim at Fake News Sites | New York Times

Does the internet have a fake-news problem? | CNet

Google CEO says fake news is a problem and should not be distributed | The Verge

Want to keep fake news out of your newsfeed? College professor creates list of sites to avoid | Los Angeles Times

My Comments

Since Donald Trump gained election victory in the USA, there has been some concern amongst a few of Silicon Valley’s tech companies regarding the existence of “fake news”.

This is typically a story that is presented in order to refer to an actual news event but doesn’t relate to any actual news event. In some cases, such stories a hyped-up versions of an existing news item but in a lot of cases, these stories are built up on rumours.

The existence of Internet-distributed fake news has been of concern amongst journalists especially where newsroom budgets are being cut back and more news publishers and broadcasters are resorting to “rip-and-read” journalism, something previously associated with newscasts provided by music-focused FM radio stations.

Similarly, most of us are using Internet-based news sources as part of our personal news-media options or or only source of news, especially when we are using portable devices like ultraportable laptops, tablets or smartphones as our main Internet terminals for Web browsing.

Silicon Valley also see the proliferation of fake news as a threat to the provision of balanced coverage of news and opinion because they see this as a vehicle for delivering the populist political agenda rather than level-headed intelligent news. This is typically because the headline and copy in “fake news” reports is written in a way to whip up an angry sentiment regarding the topics concerned, thus discouraging further personal research.

But Facebook and Google are tackling this problem initially by turning off the advertising-money tap for fake-news sites. Facebook will apply this to ad-funded apps that work alongside these sites while Google will apply this as a policy for people who sign up to the AdSense online display-ads platform.

There is the issue of what kind of curating exists in the algorithms that list search results or news items on a search-engine or social-media page. It also includes how the veracity of news content is being deemed, even though Google and Facebook are avoiding being in a position where they can be seen as “arbiters of truth”.

The big question that can exist is what other actions could Silicon Valley take to curb the dissemination of fake news beyond just simply having their ad networks turn off the supply of advertising to these sites? This is because the popular search engines are essentially machine-generated indexes of the Web, while the Social Web and the blogosphere are ways where people share links to resources that exist on the Web.

Some people were suggesting the ability for a search engine like Google or a social network site like Facebook to have its user interface “flag” references to known fake-news stories, based on user or other reports. Similarly, someone could write desktop or mobile software like a browser add-on that does this same thing, or simply publish a publicly-available list of known “fake-news” Websites for people to avoid.

This is infact an angle that a US-based college professor had taken where she prepared a Google Docs resource listing the Websites hosting that kind of news, in order to help people clean their RSS newsfeeds of misinformation, with some mainstream online news sources including the New York Magazine providing a link to this resource.

The issue of fake news distributed via the Internet is becoming a real problem, but Silicon Valley is looking at different ways to solve this problem and bring to it the same level of respect that was associated with traditional media.

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Beware of fake posts and online scams relating to the Nepal earthquake

Previous coverage

Malaysia Airlines air disaster–another event bringing out the online scams

My Comments

Just lately, a disaster that has affected many people has occurred with many casualties in the form of the Nepal earthquake.

But what follows on the tail of these disasters is an avalanche of spam email and flaky social-media posts that offer extra insight or paths to assistance for people who are touched by these events. As well, it is the time when scams pretending to be charity appeals intending to provide aid to the victims of this earthquake also appear on the Internet. It is something I have drawn attention to previously when there was the Malaysian Airlines MH370 air disaster which drew out these scams and am drawing attention to in relation to the latest earthquake. But they lead you to malware or to harvest users’ personal or financial details. In these situations, it pays to think before you click on that link so you are safe with the Net.

Check for legitimate resources that offer information about your relatives’ or friends’ wellbeing and some of these could include Nepalese consulates in your area, the Red Cross or similar services and work with them “from the horse’s mouth”. That means to deal with official websites that are known to the public and are usually published by the media as part of their coverage on the issue.

Facebook does offer a legitimate Safety Check service which comes in to play during civil emergencies. Here, it would identify if one was in an affected geographical area and allow the person to interact with them to know if they are safe and this status would appear in your Facebook Friends’ news feed. For that concerned person, they would be able to check on the News Feed for their relative’s or friend’s status. But be careful of any “fake friends” that appear around the time of this disaster and any post from a friend of yours that isn’t known to be in the area but is out of order should be questioned.

As for charity appeals, most of the media provide information about legitimate fundraising efforts that are taking place so you don’t get fleeced easily.

What to do is to be aware and careful with using the Internet to find details about who is affected by a major event and check with trusted resources.

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Scotland to have rural broadband as part of its USO

Highland Piper Creative Commons http://www.panoramio.com/photo/58988884

A Highland piper will be on a better path with rural broadband being part of an Independent Scotland

Article

UPDATE Independent Scotland Could Gain a USO for Broadband Internet | ISPReview UK

From the horse’s mouth

Scottish Government

Connecting Rural Scotland position paper

My Comments

There is a lot of talk in the UK about Scotland’s push for independence coming through with a referendum occurring on the 18th September 2014. If the vote on this referendum turns out “Yes”, Scotland would become an independent nation rather than part of the United Kingdom which is what true-blooded Scots have been looking forward to since 1603.

Flag_of_Scotland_(navy_blue).svgOne of the issues that will be called as part of an independent Scottish government’s roadmap would be improved rural connectivity. Here, this will encompass access to public transport and proper teleccomunications in areas like the Highlands or Campbelltown.

For that matter, Scotland will integrate real broadband in the country areas as part of the universal service obligation. This is something I stand for with HomeNetworking01.info in order to allow those of us who live, work or do business in the country areas to be on an even footing with those of us who live in the cities. As far as Scotland is concerned, the rural sector is what gives the country its character, especially in the form of the whisky the country is known for or the farms that can turn out the “neeps and tatties” or the meat for the haggis that is to be piped in as part of the Burns supper..

There is a level of public-private investment taking place concerning the provision of rural broadband infrastructure but the integration of Scotland’s broadband projects in the UK efforts will change should the devolution go ahead. There are unanswered questions about issues such as infrastructure technology or minimum assured bandwidth, which may also include issues like dealing with the mountains of the Highlands.

What I at least like about this is that a country that is wanting to start out independently is factoring in rural broadband as part of its road map. Here’s to Scotland for the right direction!

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Working around the limitations of rural Internet access to facilitate the Tour De France in Yorkshire

Articles

WiFi and Satellite Equipped Tractors to Follow Yorkshire’s Tour de France | ISP Review

Wifi tractors en route for the tour | Farming UK

From the horse’s mouth

Avonline Satellite Broadband

Home Page

National Farmer’s Union

Press Release

My Comments

The Tour De France 2014 is starting off in Yorkshire UK and is an event that moves from location to location depending on where the péléton are cycling in this race. As I have seen for myself when I have watched this cycle race on SBS TV, it attracts huge crowds with various locations of flat land near the race route resembling caravan parks due to the many motorhomes showing up at each point because people hire these so they can follow the race by vehicle.

This time, the National Farmer’s Union in the UK have answered to the needs of the connected spectator by setting up mobile Wi-Fi hotspots. But how have they done this even though access to decent broadband in rural areas is non-existent? They have equipped two tractors with a public-access Wi-Fi hotspot consisting of a Wi-Fi hotspot router connected to a satellite-broadband modem provided by Avonline Satellite Broadband. This means that each tractor has its own satellite bandwidth which is distributed by Wi-Fi over a range of 500 metres from where it is parked.

Locations

  Stage 1
Leeds – Harrogate
Stage 2
York – Sheffield
Tractor 1 Yorkshire Dales National Park Visitor Centre (Hawes) Steel Stage event (High Bradfield)
Tractor 2 Visitor Centre (Grassington) Holme village

 

One question that has been raised is whether the mobile hotspots and their satellite backhauls would cope under the pressure of many spectators tendering the images and video they take to multiple social networks using these networks. This is similar to situations that hoteliers would encounter when their guest-access Internet services are at capacity as all of the guests download multimedia content at the same time.

As well, it is an example of using network equipment powered from motor vehicles i.e. the Massey-Ferguson tractors to provide Internet access and making sure that the equipment does survive the distance with uneven power-supply conditions that this entails. I see this also appealing to other rural districts like France’s rural districts who want to cater to the connected visitor who attends a special event like a fair, rally or a cycle road race like the Tour De France.

Click to play "Back British Farming" video (if you don’t see it below)

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Chinese spies now charged with cyber espionage

Articles

IT-focused News

FBI Issues Wanted Posters For Five Chinese Army Officers | Gizmodo

DOJ’s charges against China reframe security, surveillance debate | PC World

US authorities name five Chinese military hackers wanted for espionage | The Register (UK)

General News

US Charges China With Cyber-Spying On American Firms | NBC News

Previous coverage on this topic

Symantec Symposium 2012 – My Observations From This Event

The issue of cybercrime now reaches the national level

My Comments

I have heard and will cite previous coverage about the issue of nation states engaging in cyber espionage against other nation states and businesses within these other nation states. For example, I attended the Symantec Symposium in 2012 and listened to the keynote speech by a guest speaker from the Australian Federal Police and he mentioned about organised crime and nation states engaging in the cyber-espionage or sabotage. He even said that it isn’t just servers or regular computers that were at risk but mobile devices like smartphones, point-of-sale / point-of-payment equipment and other dedicated-purpose computing devices being also at risk.

Subsequently, I watched the ABC Four Corners “Hacked” broadcast which covered the issue of cybercrime reaching a national level. This telecast covered key points including a small business who manufactured electronic equipment for defence purposes that fell victim to a Chinese cyber attack along with the theft of blueprints for ASIO’s new offices,

The recent indictment of Chinese military officers by the US government, along with FBI serving “wanted notices” on these officers has underscored the issue of nation states being involved in cyber espionage. It highlights the theft of intellectual property that private companies or government departments hold close to their heart for economic or strategic advantage.

It was even looked at in the context of the National Security Authority debate regarding cyber surveillance by that government department of Uncle Sam’s especially when there was the leaks that were put out by Edward Snowden, The US President Barack Obama even wanted to establish a global discussion regarding the cyber hacking and surveillance.

It got to the point where Mark Zwillinger, the Department Of Justice lawyer ran this line:The only computers these days that are safe from Chinese government hackers are computers that are turned off, unplugged, and thrown in the back seat of your car. Personally I would take this further by saying that the only computers these days safe from the Chinese government hackers are those that are turned off fully, unplugged and securely locked in the boot (trunk) of a sedan (saloon) or similar car.

As well, it would have us “wake up and smell the bacon” when it comes to nation states, especially those that don’t respect human rights, engaging in cyber warfare.

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Malaysia Airlines air disaster–another event bringing out the online scams

Article

Fake Malaysia Airlines links spread malware | CNET News

My Comments

Every time there is a major event that affects many people or brings out mass intrigue, a computer-security situation climbs on to that event’s tail.

What happens is that Websites with a questionable motive pop up like nobody’s business and links to these sites appear in spam emails or on the Social Web. The “link-bait” text draws people to these sites are laden with malware or set up to harvest Web-surfers’ personal or financial information for questionable purposes. The Malaysian Airlines air disaster drew out its own link-bait in the form of fake news links that purport to lead to video footage of the plane being discovered or survivors being found.

A proper practice is to keep the software on personal and other computer equipment “lock-step” with the latest software updates and patches and simply to “think before you click”. This is more so with anything that appears “too good to be true” or “out of the norm” for that situation.

Facebook users also have to be careful about the “fake events” which are being used as a spam-distribution vector. Here, as I previously covered, this causes notifications to appear in the user’s Facebook Notification list with your computer or mobile device popping up messages and sounding an audible alert to these notifications if a Facebook client is running. As well, if a user accepts these events, information appears on their Timeline about that event.

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Hacking incident with the hallmarks of distraction burglary

Article

‘Bogus IT guys’ slurp £1.3m from Barclays: Cybercops cuff 8 blokes • The Register

Barclays Bank computer theft: Two men in court over £1.3m haul | BBC News London

From the horse’s mouth

Metropolitan Police (London)

Press Release

Barclays Bank

Press Release

My Comments

KVM switch and 3G router attached to the bank's computer to hack the system (Metropolitan Police London press image)

KVM switch and 3G router attached to the bank’s computer to hack the system

Very often, I have heard and read crime-prevention articles touching on the issue of “distraction burglary”. This is where a person gains access to someone’s home or business under the pretext of a legitimate reason such as to read the meter or do some inspection and takes advantage of this to commit or facilitate crimes, typically burglaries.

The material often encouraged people to check that the visitor is real and legitimate and has a legitimate reason to visit before admitting them to their premises. One of these campaigns that I considered notable was the “Stop Chain Check” campaign in the UK that was ran by various UK police forces in concert with TV Licensing and other utilities where older residents were to have the door chain on before they opened the front door and to verify the credentials of that visitor.

Even IBM ran an awareness campaign through the 70s targeting Selectric typewriter owners who had equipment-maintenance contracts with them warning them of bogus service representatives. Here the bogus repairmen to claim that the customer’s Selectric needed workshop attention and would take the machine away for “repair”. Similarly, businesses had to be careful about people showing up as official telephone-company representatives to perform work on their telephone equipment because of this being used as a cover for planting bugs or phone taps.

Recently, there was a hacking incident targeted at Barclays Bank in Swiss Cottage, London where someone gained access to the bank branch’s IT equipment under the pretence of doing IT support work for the bank. Here, they attached a KVM-over-IP switch and a 3G mobile-broadband router to a computer at that branch and used this setup to commit a very large fraud against Barclays.

The hallmarks of this fraud was an unannounced service call by people pretending to be the bank’s IT staff or contractors. It was very similar to the aforementioned distraction burglaries with the criminals acting like the fake meter readers who were gaining access to people’s homes. There is also another similarity to the new practice of “spear-phishing” which is similar to the classic “phishing” attacks where official email from a bank or similar organisation is used to siphon confidential data from customers, but the attack is targeted at a particular employee of a particular company for access to highly-confidential business material.

A good practice for businesses who have IT-service contracts is to maintain a single point of contact between the business and the contractor. Here, you have an ability to pre-arrange any work that needs to be done on the equipment and be aware of any impending work, whether to rectify a fault or improve the IT system. As well, people in the business or similar environment need to know what equipment is currently in service or available for service.

Also we have to be suspicious if someone is forcing upon you the installation of hardware or software, the modification of existing hardware or software or the removal of hardware especially if the work hasn’t been arranged previously. This is more so if the work isn’t explained, the equipment’s owner or organisation’s management aren’t kept in the loop or at worst they insist that no-one is in the office while the work is underway.

In conclusion, even if you do have your house in order when it comes to Internet-based security threats, you also need to be sure of what is going on if someone visits you to work on your computer equipment.

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Farewell Steve Jobs–one of the pillars of the personal computer

Initially when I heard that Steve Jobs was to permanently resign from Apple due to ill-health, I thought it was simply retirement from one of the pillar companies of the personal-computing age.

Now, the man responsible for the Macintosh computing platform which commercialised and legitimised the “WIMP” (windows, icons, mouse, pointer) user-interface style and the iPhone and iPad devices which also did the same for touchscreen computing, has now passed away.

Many will remember his style of commercialising these technologies through a vertically-integrated method which requires the use of Apple products and services for full benefit, but this let the competitors implement systems that implemented these usage metaphors on their own platforms.

This was all from him and Steve Wozniak turning the proceeds from selling that VW Bus (Kombi-van) into capital for the Apple company. Here, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak worked on the development of the Apple II which became one of the beacons of the personal-computing age in the late 1970s.

A lot of commentators had said that Steve Jobs, through his efforts at Apple with the Apple II, the Macintosh and the iPhone and iPad devices had personalised computing. I have observed this through the demonstration software that came with Apple II computers in the 1980s, the boot sequence that was used in all the incarnations of the Macintosh platform and the design of computing products from the iMac onwards.

Whether its through the evolution of a computing technology or the passing of one of the people who influenced the direction of personal computing and communications; I would see this simply as a milestone to the connected lifestyle.

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UK riots–Best Internet resources to follow with

I have been following the UK riots very lately and have found that the BBC do provide good quality resources which can be of benefit around the world.

This would be important if you have relatives or friends who are based in the UK. Also, some of you may not have adequate coverage of this event in your country, especially on TV.

BBC Radio London (available on all Internet-radio directories – vTuner, Reciva, RadioTime)

There is continual reporting from the front with news and traffic reports being run on the quarter-hour. The traffic reports do yield information about areas that have been closed off and give a sense of where the troublespots are by reporting on road and rail closures.

BBC microsite

This site is running as a live dashboard but the live TV feed from BBC News 24 may not come through due to it being oversubscribed. There is a BBC ticker with news and information from different sources, including Twitter and email.

Other resources

The Guardian also run a microsite which is regularly updated with news as it comes in.

There is also a Google-powered map which has the verified areas where the trouble is occurring and this is based on verified data. This may be useful if you want to check whether your loved ones are at threat from the riots.

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