02 July 2020
Posteado en : Interview
Chief Inspector Diego Alejandro Palomino speaks about fake news, what it is, the problems it causes and how it has impacted on the current Covid-19 health crisis.
FIIAPP, through some of the projects it manages, works hand-in-hand with state security forces and agencies to prevent and fight against all forms of cross-boarder organised crime. One of the new forms of crime is currently perpetrated via the latest technology. This specialist from the National Police Technological Research Unit (ITU) throws some more light on this development.
What is fake news?
Fake news can be defined as false information that appears to be true, but which intends to misinform for political, propaganda and/or economic-financial purposes.
News that falls into the category of fake news seeks to influence or manipulate the ideas of the recipients, causing confusion or deception, and taking advantage of circumstances to create fear, uncertainty and precariousness, thus making people more easily influenced.
The essential elements of this type of news combine intent and falsehood.
What are the main problems it causes?
The main problem that fake news causes is disinformation. Having knowledge of certain information usually generates unease in the recipients of the same, which in turn, can influence decision-making.
The state of alert and the problems related to the pandemic are giving rise to a high demand for goods, restrictions on mobility, anxiety and fear in people, as well as limitations in supply chains.
Any news that is generated about each or all of these activities or circumstances is being taken to the extreme; even more so when a lot of it is contradictory, thus generating greater uncertainty. This, in turn, causes people to take even fewer precautions when analysing the situation they are in and to take much more risky measures than usual.
Another problem to take into account is that quite often the information is not verified and is forwarded or disseminated without any assurance as to its truth, which contributes to its rapid expansion, thereby generating the “illusory truth effect”. In fact, very few people spread false news when they are aware that it is indeed false.
Why is it so harmful?
Fake news tends to reach many more people than true information, and may alter the criteria used to distinguish one from the other. It normally reflects an exaggerated sensationalism, which has a direct impact on people’s opinion. This type of information, due to its nature, content and objective, prevents the creation of an objective and rational judgment, thereby distorting reality and discrediting contrary information, which conditions decision-making.
Taken to the extreme, this type of information can create a domino effect, leading to substantial changes in various social, political, labour and economic matters.
In certain circumstances, fake news may even contribute to polarising society and can come to be considered as a direct attack on the quality of democracy, given its potentially overwhelming influence on public opinion.
How is it detected?
At the National Police level, we use the two fundamental tools currently available to us, due to the operational restrictions caused by the state of alarm and the functions directly entrusted to us by the instructions received. They basically consist of cyber patrolling, that is to say, monitoring social networks and tracking internet activities, and checking the information received through citizen participation.
All the information received is checked, verified and confirmed, the corresponding information notes are then issued on each event and reports on the facts and the actions taken.
Moreover, through the various police services and the secretary of state for security, reports are being issued on the control of false news, such as those drafted by the Intelligence Centre for Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime (CITCO), the coordination and analysis body in which the Spanish security forces and agencies participate.
Has there been an increase in disinformation during the health crisis?
Generally speaking, disinformation has increased exponentially. Firstly, the dearth of true and verifiable information available about the disease itself has generated a large amount of erroneous information regarding the means of contagion, exposure, methods to avoid contagion, ways in which it may be cured, all of which generated different cases of fraud based on miraculous remedies, and even related to the Covid-19 vaccine.
Secondly, a series of social and economic needs have been generated around the disease that have led to the offer of aid by governments to alleviate them, which in turn has led to false information about the ways in which such aid can be obtained and the requirements to obtain it. Criminals have taken advantage of such circumstances to “hook” people into giving them personal data, which has caused some to become the victims of fraudulent financial transfers.
What role does cooperation play in tackling this problem?
Cooperation has a fundamental role in the fight against any criminal activity or any other that prioritises the interests of a few to generate sweeping changes, either in society or in people’s way of life.
In a globalised world where there is an absence of barriers and borders in the exchange of information and rapid access to it, countries must act in unison to combat the shared danger posed by the spread of false information that becomes generalised and reliable merely by the fact of being repeated.
Police and judicial cooperation must fight disinformation, just as it fights against organised crime, exchanging experiences and good practices and promoting the publicity of public actions in the fight against practices that seek to subvert established political orders, given that disinformation directly jeopardises democracy and people’s freedom.
14 May 2020
Posteado en : Interview
On 17 May, World Telecommunication and Information Society Day is held and FIIAPP is working on various projects, such as EL PAcCTO and Apoyo a AMERIPOL, which promote action by the security forces and corps against internet crime
To commemorate this day, we interviewed Diego Alejandro Palomino, from the Technological Investigation Unit of the National Police, to have him clarify concepts related to telecommunications security and the cyber-patrolling work they carry out to fight cyber crime.
What is the dark web, and how is it different from the deep web?
The content of the web is a conglomerate of files of all kinds, which are usually indexed, that is, they can be found by searching through the different search engines that exist. That would be the “surface web”, the one to which all users have access and which, however, may correspond to just 4-5% of net content.
The “dark web”, on the other hand, corresponds to content that is not indexed, that is, the content hidden, a priori, from the usual search engines. The contents of the “dark web” pursue anonymity in the source and destination of the information transmitted, whether deliberately or otherwise, which is why it is often accessed through specific applications. Despite this, these applications are used in the same way for searching the “surface web”.
Although we can speak of a distinction between the “dark web” and the “deep web”, in practice such differentiation makes little sense. It is true that to refer to the “deep web” the example of an iceberg is usually used, with three parts distinguished therein: the upper part, which is located above the water, which would correspond to the “surface web”; the contiguous submerged part (or intermediate part), which would correspond to the networks and technologies pursuing anonymity in the source and destination of their transmissions, which would be the “dark web”, and the lower peak, which would be the websites or databases that escape all types of search engine indexing and are very difficult to access, which would correspond to the “deep web”.
What is the work of the Technology Research Unit on the dark web?
The tasks of the Central Cybercrime Unit include investigating all crimes related to Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), and a large part of its work is done on the web, without differentiating where the information is found, where the crimes are committed and where the criminals are located.
One of the main tasks carried out by the National Police consists of the prevention and investigation of crimes, including those carried out on-line. For such tasks, different sources of information are available: police complaints, communications from public authorities, information on citizen participation and information obtained directly.
In the net, one of the fundamental sources for the National Police is cyber patrolling, which consists of a mixture of techniques, mostly preventive, with the aim of locating illegal activities and their perpetrators, and which do not necessarily have to be linked to specific investigations. It is a technique that allows for the collection, storage and analysis of data so that they can be transformed into relevant information. In general, cyber patrols consist of the observation of social networks, tracking on the dark web and checks on the web, distinguishing the activity that can may happen on open networks, like any net user, and on private networks, with judicial authorisation and, normally, for concrete investigation of certain crimes.
Has activity increased on this net during the state of alarm?
Network activity has increased considerably, based on various factors. For one thing, people who are confined at home and have the possibility of teleworking have remote access from their homes, which generates an increase in the security breaches and vulnerabilities of companies that facilitate this kind of work.
For another, since people are not doing outdoor activities they search for leisure or entertainment on-line, which means greater control over emails, an increase in the use of social networks, web searches for information, the need to buy pharmaceuticals and basic necessities, etc. All this leads to a significant increase in illegal activity and, above all, in the effectiveness of cyber criminal actions.
Among the activities that are being discovered among all the information obtained by whatever means we can highlight different blocks of irregular activities, such as fake news, fraud of all kinds, and offences against people and the protection of minors.
As an example, and summarising the illegal activity detected by the Central Cybercrime Unit, the following issues, among many others, can be highlighted: More than 130,000 domains related to COVID-19 have been detected, emails, websites and instant messages offering miraculous remedies, including COVID-19 vaccines, fake websites for the sale of pharmaceuticals, impersonation of official bodies for regularisation of temporary lay-offs (ERTES), financial compensation from the Social Security or economic aid to the unemployed and self-employed, as well as an immense increase in “Phishing” using the main financial entities’ corporate images.
There are no borders on the net… is it necessary to do cyber patrols with the cooperation of several countries or police units?
The National Police obviously works hand in hand with international public institutions to carry out cyber patrols and detect “fake news”. The Internet has no borders and criminals find a way to attack victims and feel untouchable before States. The exchange of intelligence and investigative information is therefore still vital.
International police cooperation plays a key role in the investigations and cyber patrolling that is currently taking place. It is a way of exchanging experiences and good practices, not just information, when dealing with any investigation, and having knowledge of the current status of cybercrime.
The support of the main international institutions, EUROPOL and INTERPOL, where experiences and good practices are being shared, as well as early warning systems and information on new criminal phenomena on the net. In fact, fluid contacts continue to be maintained in the face of network checks requested through these channels.
Recently, the meeting with AMERIPOL, which took place as part of the cooperation with EUROPOL and, specifically, with the National Police of Spain, has been an important milestone for rapprochement, collaboration and understanding between the police of various countries that, as a general rule, and more so in the current situation, require generosity, understanding and mutual support, because we are all in the same boat, and sometimes the boat goes adrift and we feel like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza crossing the high plains, fighting against giants or windmills.