Podcast Episode 91: Fighting Fake News with or without Facebook and whats with all the Cryptojacking?

In this episode of The Security Ledger Podcast (#91): with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying he will testify before Congress, we ask Harvard’s Matthew Baum about what Congressmen and women should ask him and how to best fight fake news. Also: Adam Kujawa of Malwarebytes updates us on that company’s latest quarterly threat report and helps us answer the question “what’s with all the cryptomining”?

Shadowboxing fake news

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has promised to testify before the US Congress in the wake of serial revelations about his company’s ties to shady data analytics operations that helped foment social unrest and political tension around both the Brexit vote and the US Presidential election. It is now believed that more than 80 million Facebook users may have had their data exposed to Cambridge Analytica and its many clients.

Protestors call out the “fake news.” But what is fake news and is it really as powerful as we’re led to believe? I speak with Harvard researcher Matthew Baum to find out.

Ahead of Zuckerberg’s (presumed) testimony, however, there has been lots of attention to the question of what Congressmen and Congresswomen should ask Mr. Zuckerberg about his company’s role in spreading disinformation. But our next guest, Professor Matthew Baum of Harvar’d Kennedy School, argues that one of the big problems we have right now is a lack of understanding about how big a problem fake news is.

Baum was a co-author of a paper, recently published in the magazine Science. He notes that we don’t, for instance, know how many human beings actually encountered fake news stories and how they shared it and who they shared it with. One of the biggest challenges, therefore, is to find a way to work with social media companies to get access to data that will help us to understand the scope of the fake news epidemic.

There are reasons to suspect that fake news limited effectiveness in convincing people to believe false information. Likewise, there is reason to suspect that anti-fake news strategies like the (now) ubiquitous ‘fact checking’ exercises carried out by mainstream publications are also of limited utility in “educating” readers who may not put much value over truth vs. non-truth.

In our first segment, I speak with Baum about his research, about what we do know about fake news and get his thoughts on some strategies for combatting it.

What’s with all the cryptomining?

When the folks at Malwarebytes were putting together their latest quarterly threat report  (out today), one trend stuck out: cryptomining. In fact, the shift within the cyber underground from schemes like ransomware and banking trojans to crypto mining and the less savory cryptojacking (basically: hijacking your phone or PC to do cryptomining) has surprised even hardened security researchers like our guest, Adam Kujawa the Director of Malware Intelligence at Malwarebytes.

In our final segment this week, Adam and I talk about the latest Malwarebytes threat report and the sharp turn towards cryptojacking scams that it documents. We talk about what may be driving cryptojacking and cryptomining activities. Is it (as I like to think) a preference for cleaner, “victimless” scams? Or, as Adam theorizes, that it is just cyber criminals finding the path of maximum profit and minimum resistance.

Check out our whole conversation in this week’s SL Podcast!

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