A new study from DNS-based cyber threat intelligence firm DomainTools has exposed how cyber attackers are now using domain-squatting to spread disinformation and fake news to the public as well. After analysing domains associated with leading UK media outlets – BBC News, The Guardian, Sky News, ITV News, and the Daily Mail – the firm discovered more than 200 fraudulent domains that cloned genuine ones.
Listing some of the domains, it included –
These domains can easily fool users who are not paying close attention to check if the web addresses are indeed genuine.
According to Tim Helming of DomainTools –
“These malicious domains are a kind-of double whammy, as they can be both engaged in the spread of fake news and in spreading malicious software. While malicious software can be damaging for the organization or the individual, fake news has a broader corrosive aspect, as it can damage the very institutions on which our democracies stand. These ideas can polarize and galvanize extreme forces in our country, ultimately ending as a threat to us all, especially where trusted news sources such as the ones above are concerned.”
This is, however, not the first time that cyber attackers have used fake news and disinformation to spread discontent among the public or to harm the democratic process. In November last year, the government asked departments and officials to monitor social media and to flag articles that misinformed the public after certain articles that appeared on social media spread disinformation and fake news over flu and measles vaccination programs run by the government.
According to The Mirror, the government was also investigating whether fake news and disinformation over vaccination programs were the primary reasons behind an outbreak of measles in Liverpool and Leeds. It was believed that unvaccinated children picked up the virus from abroad and were spreading it to the rest of the public.
Another Russian Conspiracy Attack?
Chris Philips – former head of the National Counter Terrorism Security Office, said that the disinformation campaign was led and managed by Russian cyber units who were intent on undermining the United Kingdom and the rest of the Western hemisphere.
“The Russians have long felt that the UK, America and the European Union is a major threat to them so have developed major strategies in how to interfere with politics, policy, and now it seems the interference is impacting on vital decisions in our daily lives. The art of being able to exert this control over a society is arguably one of the most powerful weapons available in modern warfare.” He said.