Despite heightened awareness of ‘fake news’ in recent months, 86% of people in the UK claim they would not be able to tell the difference between real and fake news. This is according to a study by McAfee which also revealed that the majority of UK adults do not completely trust the information they read online. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that over the past year commentators have called out fake news for impacting the outcome of the EU referendum, the US election, and the recent UK election.
Worryingly, this does not appear to stop people from spreading potential fake news or manipulated data. 70% of those questioned admit that they do not fact check before they share information online. The study uncovered that a mere 18% of UK respondents have been warned by their employer about the dangers of fake news or manipulated data.
“This is an obvious problem for individuals as well as the wider society," explains Raj Samani, Chief Scientist and Fellow at McAfee. “We have seen instances of stolen and manipulated data being commissioned to assassinate characters and disrupt democracy. So close to the general election, it’s concerning to see that the UK is so susceptible to fake news and manipulated data.
“Sharing information that we do not 100% trust, without fact checking is a dangerous practice. As well as fuelling the fake news fire, we could be inadvertently spreading malicious activity and supporting cyber crime. Sites that peddle fake news are often behind cyber attacks such as ransomware and phishing."
The Business Continuity Institute's latest Horizon Scan Report identified the influence of social media, which includes the spread of misinformation, as a long-term uncertainty that organizations need to keep on their radar, but perhaps organizations need to give greater consideration to it right now given the high prevalence of fake news, and the major impact it can have.
“If employees are trained to spot untrustworthy sources, they could be putting the entire corporate network at risk and compromising the security of customers," Samani added to explain that the problem is not limited to individuals. "It’s crucial that businesses and individuals become more vigilant at fact-checking – whether that’s a news source, an email or a seemingly personal social media message. Cyber criminals are the masters of manipulating data.”