Insight by Recorded Future

Disinformation is ramping up in 2020, here’s how you can protect yourself and your business

Fake news, disinformation, misinformation, sewing confusion, all of those are goals of U.S. adversaries like China, Russia and Iran, and they’ve found a new home on the internet.

The reality is that disinformation is constantly around us, and as the 2020 election ramps up, so too will the disinformation campaigns.

“What we saw in the prior presidential campaign was real evidence of tampering,” said Levi Gundert, vice president of intelligence and risk at Recorded Future, during a video whitepaper sponsored by Recorded Future. “These influence operations are really designed to create havoc in the American electoral system and not necessarily to do any sort of vote tampering, but really to sway opinions. What we saw was a systematic effort at creating that chaos.”

While it’s getting harder to differentiate a real news article from something put out to confuse the public, there are ways to protect yourself or your company.

One of the ways Gundert says you can keep disinformation in check is to take a step back from social media and think critically about where an article originated.

“One of the tactics used is the creator of the disinformation will use domains very similar to legitimate media outlets,” Gundert said. “The name will look or sound familiar, even though it’s actually slightly different than the legitimate domain.”

It may be something as simple as adding an “S” to the end of a publication or changing the .org to a .com.

Gundert also suggests corroborating news you hear from a questionable source with organizations that have high standards in the way they report and dig into facts.

“When you’re online, and you’re in the echo chamber that is a social media platform, it is really important to think through what you are reading, watching, or hearing.” Gundert said.

When it comes to bigger institutions, they have a role in stamping out disinformation as well.

Gundert said companies need to watch out for organizations that will try to replicate their brand or pose as a fake version of a brand. Companies should monitor domains similar to their names and see what is happening to them. Businesses also need to keep an eye on social media to see what it being said about the company and what kind of information is being broadcast to the world.

“You can imagine that there may be more and more companies that decide to use disinformation services to spin up campaigns against another company,” Gundert said.

One trend Recorded Future has seen is criminal organizations offering services like providing fake news articles. That democratizes the process and makes it easier for companies, interest groups or regular people to employ the use of disinformation.

“Everything is fair game and I think there is probably some innovation to come in terms of how they undermine our processes and our sources of information,” Gundert said. “There’s so many ways they can attack us. There are fake articles, but it’s not just the written word. It’s media, it’s pictures, it’s videos, it’s doctoring, it’s deep fakes. That’s the scariest part. As a consumer, when you are on social media or even on a mainstream news site there is a question of whether you are listening, watching or reading something that is not true.”

Implications of Disinformation

What we saw in the prior presidential campaign was real evidence of tampering. These influence operations are really designed to create havoc in the American electoral system and not necessarily to do any sort of vote tampering, but really to sway opinions. What we saw was a systematic effort at creating that chaos.

Trends in Disinformation

When you’re online, and you’re in the echo chamber that is a social media platform, it is really important to think through what you are reading, watching, or hearing.

Identifying Disinformation and Next Steps

As a consumer, when you are on social media or even on a mainstream news site there is a question of whether you are listening, watching or reading something that is not true.

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