When the world’s most recognizable search engine churns out conspiracy theories surrounding the former President of the U.S., something’s up. Recently, Google Home came under fire after it was caught promoting fake news.
If you asked the smart device, “Is Obama planning a coup” it’s reply was bizarre. “Obama may, in fact, be planning a communist coup d’état at the end of his term in 2016,” it stated. When asked if Republicans were fascists, it replied with a definitive “Yes,” even comparing them to Nazis.
As well as all the ethical issues, fake news like this could have a devastating effect on hardware too. In fact, it has already become a significant concern for IT security experts.
How is misinformation a security concern?
It’s hard to believe that Google could be part of this growing problem. Business Insider lays the blame with the company’s Snippets feature.
Snippets is meant to provide users with a definitive answer to any question typed into the search bar. For instance, if you ask for the name of the last king of England, it will tell you: George VI.
Google’s virtual assistant uses a version of Snippets. But, while regular search pages let you know the source of an answer, Google’s virtual assistant doesn’t.
It seems that the algorithm chooses answer from the web without adequately verifying the authenticity of the source. A Google spokesman explained the mishap by confirming that the content is drawn from third-party sites. He also admitted to situations where misleading or inappropriate content had been featured.
To conclude, he said that whenever such issues arose, the company was quick to remedy them. Unfortunately, this time around somebody else spotted the mistake before Google could act.
When a trusted source touts a fake news story of any kind, it sets a precedent. The danger to IT infrastructure lies in fake news stories peddled by cybercriminals with malicious intent. The more normal these stories appear, the more likely it is that someone will click through on one of them – and then the trouble starts.
Hackers are replacing email scams and instant messages with fake news stories. Just one click can open the floodgates to phishing, malware and DoS attacks. These onslaughts can quickly spread through an organization’s IT network causing massive damage.
In this climate, potential viruses quickly go viral.
And the response?
Facebook revealed their intent to ensure fake news doesn’t trend on its platform. Apple quickly followed suit promising to make its delivery services well-equipped to spot conspiracy theories.
Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, has dubbed fake news one of the leading problems faced by society today. He believes it’s paramount for technology companies to find a way to deal with this contentious issue.
But SMBs and SMEs can act now too. It’s in the best interest of organizations to warn employees about these potential risks before that fatal click.