20 Mar 2019

Fake Facebook and Email

Wow! What a beautiful vacation that friend of a friend posted in their Facebook account. It looks like the perfect family vacation; all smiles, all sun, some commentary about the perfect spot…

Is the perfect life of your friends’ friend depressing you? How could their experiences be so perfect, while when you go on vacation, you are hit with reality; some rain, crowded hotels, delayed flights, travel stress, kids complaining…

Well, what you should keep in mind (and should continuously remind yourself) is that what you see online quite possibly could be fake.

The New York Times recently reviewed Facebook’s “Transparency” data and concluded that Facebook took down 2.8 billion fake accounts in the last twelve months. According to the report, the accounts taken down each calendar quarter equate to approximately one third of all Facebook accounts. Could it really be that 1 in 3 Facebook accounts on average are posted by fake people?

It gets more interesting (or scary depending on your viewpoint).

If you tuned into news reports recently, you will see a surge of discussion about fake videos online, called “Deep Fakes”. Tech Essentials explored this in a recent article (read more about Deep Fakes here, “Today’s Fake News will be Quaint in 2020”). Political mis-information campaigns are soon to include videos of what look like famous people and well-known politicians saying things that they really are not saying. These fake videos are extremely authentic looking, easy to make by techy amateurs, and easy to disseminate to the masses.

And then there is fake email. The latest trend is the imposter email that comes to you posing as if it is from your boss or business colleague. This type of email, when sent using sophisticated imposter techniques, is called a “Whaling” email (read more, “$5 Billion Hacker Lottery”). Like Deep Fakes, if done right, these are extremely authentic looking, and often lure the recipient into engaging in a back-and-forth email exchange over a period of time, sometimes ending in a fake invoice being paid, or money being sent to the imposter.

Awareness and detection tools will need to continuously advance to counter these mis-information and hacker threats. Facebook fakes, Deep Fakes, Whaling imposter email and other threats are here to stay.

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