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Information overload – protect yourself

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During the COVID-19 global pandemic, it’s vital to keep the public informed and to help prepare people, thereby lessening the chance for mass panic. Unfortunately, information being passed through the internet and social media can do the exact opposite and lead to more panic. Whether it be the spread of disinformation or malicious attempts to gain access to your devices, each user should be cautious.

Malicious Intrusive Attacks On Devices

Cyber-attacks target mobile phones, tablets, home, work computers and networks. Clickbait, a post or email with a link designed to entice a reader to click on it, can be considered a form of phishing. Spear phishing has information that is specific to you included in the bait. A successful phishing attack can allow a hacker to install malicious software on your device:
Ransom ware: locks and encrypts your data threatening to erase it unless you pay a fee.
Malware: Allows attacker to spy on your activities, access your log on credentials, steal your data - including identity and banking information - or even take control of your device.

Malicious attempts to target electronic devices for access can present as fake websites and social media posts. Once the link is clicked, the user may experience serious ramifications including identity theft and loss of data, finances or even complete shutdown of systems. There is no internet police, so it depends on you, the viewer, to police yourself.

To protect yourself, ensure your devices are updated with the latest virus protection and ensure you know about the site you are accessing by clicking the link. If it’s an offer that sounds too good to be true or promises compelling gossip, it’s best to search the information’s source or avoid it altogether.

Disinformation Understanding and Avoidance

Misinformation: Inaccuracies from error.
Disinformation: Deliberate falsehoods shared by design-often with sensational headlines to elicit an emotional response.

To help fight the spread of mis/disinformation ask the following before sharing:
• Is the content in an article original or a repost?
• Who shared or created it? Is it a trustworthy, reputable source?
• Is the social network account new with one line of posts, or well established with a variety of posts?
• When was the information created? Check dates and read thoroughly for mismatch or false information.
• Why is this information being shared, what does the writer want you to think? Who stands to benefit from your acceptance of this information?
• Candid pictures or stock internet photos? Go to images.google.com in chrome (desktop version) and paste the URL for the image to determine if it’s original or reused.

The bottom line is healthy skepticism. By taking a few minutes to verify, you ensure that the information you are reading is accurate. Being a cautious user does not mean swearing off the internet. Simply check source information before clicking links and not promoting what you don’t believe are two of the key habits to protecting yourself.