Disinformation is now a cyber weapon and a major security risk. It is a menacing attack made through the information spaces that we all spend so much time in every day. The entire information ecosystem is vulnerable, which means so are societies, democratic processes, highly visible brands, and people in general. Disinformation is not fake news. It is a weapon that creates confusion and misunderstanding by publicizing questionable material. Even if the disinformation is refuted—it is enough that it has been seen or heard.
For years I have talked about the critical need to protect the data on your business network. I have told you about identifying and managing vulnerabilities in your infrastructure. You need to build a defense around your infrastructure and to monitor and analyze any blips or anomalies on the network. We need to be quick to respond to attacks and to recover from them. Historically we all think in terms of network invasion and the theft of data. Disinformation is not any of these things. Our usual stay-safe game plan is not a deterrent.
We think about cybersecurity as the necessary protocol to protect our computers from any loss of value. Loss of value can mean stolen data, a disruption, a misdirection of service, stolen or ransomed data, even damage or theft to hardware. Disinformation or any information manipulation can also cause a loss of value. The extent to which it can be contained is the defining difference. So far there is no firewall, no patch that can stop it.
“We tend to think of our cyberdefenses as physical barricades, barring access from would-be perpetrators, and of information campaigns as retrograde and ineffective. In other words, we continue to focus on the walls of the castle, while our enemies are devising methods to poison the air.” Phillip Lohaus, America Enterprise Institute.
Disinformation is a word that we hear every day now that the national election is less than a week away. Federal officials warn us about Russian disinformation campaigns and Iranian disinformation campaigns. We hear that so-and-so said this and then someone else said that. It puts me in mind of when Orson Welles terrified the nation with his War of the Worlds broadcast. Disinformation can also play foul in our mostly sane upper Midwest region. Think of times when the word was that Starbuck’s was giving out free coffee (it wasn’t,) or when Coca Cola had recalled Dasani water because it was infested with clear parasites (it wasn’t, they didn’t) or when Jeff Bezos would give $1000 to the first hundred emails asking for it (he didn’t.)
This is destructive disinformation because of the time and effort it takes to clear up the misconception. Also, because this wrong information is in cyberspace, it will usually trend, fade, then trend again. It becomes an insidious time-suck that can and usually does cost someone money to try to fix.
Weaponized disinformation is a real thing. I urge you to be aware of conversations about it and to give some thought as to how a disinformation campaign might hurt your business. If you have questions, give us a call at Aptica. We are well-informed and still studying it as activity increases.
Jason Newburg, 260.243.5100, ext 2101, is the founder and owner of Aptica LLC. This IT management and support company has been serving small to medium-sized businesses for 19 years in the region that includes Angola, South Bend, and Fort Wayne, IN, Battle Creek, MI, and Toledo OH.