back to article Fake news ‘as a service’ booming among cybercrooks

Criminals are exploiting “fake news” for commercial gain, according to new research. Fake news is widely assumed to be political or ideological propaganda published to sway public opinion, but new research conducted by threat intel firm Digital Shadows and released on Thursday suggested fake news generation services are now …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...published to sway public opinion...

    I think fake news are intended to confirm already existing opinions and biases...

  2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Old News

    Fake news as a service boomed during the referendum and really became mainstream during US election. There were whole factories in some really interesting places like f.e. rural Macedonia producing stories and publishing them.

    It has been a mainstream "as a service" operation for several years now. This report is way out of date.

    There is an interesting corollary to the fact that it is mainstream - this means that you can no longer eliminate election skew by an external actor(*). Stuff comes from nowhere, made-to-measure and built on a contract. Even if you ban one source, the next one will be published via a different one. So eliminating troll factories as attempted at the moment is actually counterproductive - it is better to deal with enemies you know then surprise attacks coming out of nowhere.

    I will not call it interference as it is something which has been done since humans came up with the election concept. Spreading rumours to influence elections is a millennia old sport. The difference is the scale, speed and cost reduction.

  3. Filippo Silver badge

    "beyond geopolitical to financial interests"

    Interesting sentence there. It's a sad state of the world, that financial interests are implied to be more important than geopolitical.

    1. Mnot Paranoid

      Re: "beyond geopolitical to financial interests"

      "Money makes the world go 'round" is rather an old saying.

      1. BillG
        Flame

        Re: "beyond geopolitical to financial interests"

        Mnot Paranoid wrote: "Money makes the world go 'round" is rather an old saying.

        "Money makes the world go 'round, but revenge is the axis upon which it spins"

        - Charles Emerson Winchester

    2. BillG
      Headmaster

      Re: "beyond geopolitical to financial interests"

      It's my understanding that the main purpose of fake news is to manipulate stocks. It started with the penny stock spam "SHT stock is going to expl;ode! By it now". Because legit brokers knew that there were fools that would believe this and buy the stock, it worked.

      Now you have news websites that will promote, or tear down, energy companies, unicorn stocks, etc. This is the massive 100 million kilowatt engine that drives fake news.

      In a final twist of irony, fake news begats it's own fake news. As in, we are told fake news is about politics, so we don't look at fake news' main focus of manipulating financial markets.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fake news has one real purpose and that's to obfuscate real news.

    At least that's how I see it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Meh

      Fake news is unregulated advertising

      Fake news has one real purpose and that's to obfuscate real news.

      At least that's how I see it.

      It's purpose is to influence people's perception and consequently their actions. News stories can be invented to encourage people to do certain things. It can be about anything - vioting, buying stuff. It's just unregulated advertising, no different from how advertising worked before it became regulated.

      Most of the time people judge the accuracy of an assertion by how often they have seen it, and whether it confirms their world-view, and confirmation bias means they don't bother looking for counter-evidence but keep an eye out for anything that confirms it. That's why you believe Napoleon was short, the Vikings wore helmets with horns, and coffee is made out of beans.*

      * Equally, I don't have much idea how advertising worked before it became regulated, but my comment sounds plausible enough to be believed.

  5. m0rt

    Doesn't this also show the current trend regarding 'news' as nothing more than rehashing gossip and hear-say?

    Didn't news used to be about checking references, ensuring that what you are stating as news has been checked and cross checked with verifiable sources?

    Our addiction to updates, ('Breaking News' from BBC website is pretty much 'Breaking News - we have some Breaking News' when you click on the article), is basically ensuring anything at all is now considered news. I still think that Al Jazeera is one of the better news agencies out there. The BBC is even more risible because it used to be the example to be followed. Not the slow sad decline into mediacrityy it is now.

    Bah..in my day nostalgic vitriol blah blah blah...

    1. Rafael #872397

      "news"

      Doesn't this also show the current trend regarding 'news' as nothing more than rehashing gossip and hear-say?

      And posting tweets of random users as source of news? At least El Reg stopped doing that (right?). CNN, on the other hand...

  6. simonb_london

    Fake news means

    ... Mainstream media's way of saying, "Oh ****! We lost our monopoly!"

    Also a great excuse for super snoopers such as Teresa May to implement sweeping censorship and surveillance measures for our "protection".

  7. Fading
    Holmes

    Which leads to the simple conclusion....

    The is no such thing as real news.....

  8. Gordon Pryra

    Talking up products o make them seem more attractive

    Is not a crime.

    Its also called advertising.

    Buying and selling to massage markets is being done on a daily basis by the banks, yet none ever gets accused of being a criminal (even when destroying the worlds economy or being court transferring money for Dictators and drug cartels)

    Why therefore describe smaller practitioners of this "pump and dump" system as "aspiring criminals" when they are just doing the same as the other shit sucking leeches in our economy....

    1. Palpy

      Re: Why describe pump-and-dump practitioners...

      ...as aspiring criminals?

      Historically, advertising works by influencing people to buy a product or service, or vote a certain way. It might influence someone to buy a particular stock, though, by presenting the company at hand in a favourable light.

      Pump-and-dump is stock market manipulation, plain and simple. It's more akin to insider trading than advertising. The pump-and-dump manipulator buys a stock and then tries to make the market price rise by promoting fake news about the stock; or, conversely, uses FN to make a stock drop, then buys on the cheap before the lies are discounted and the price goes back up. Either way he buys low and sells high, based on the false information he himself spreads.

  9. Mike Moyle

    Hmmm...

    "Mentions of these sites and services across criminal forums have increased increased fourfold in just two years from 418 in 2015 to 1381 in 2017 so far, Digital Shadows reported."

    Makes you wonder if the purveyors are using their own tools to boost their online footprint in order to appear more popular and effective to prospective customers.

  10. Alistair
    Windows

    Ahhh. News, Fake News, opions, memes and social media

    I'm gonna have to go round up all my "Fletch" books and re-read them. It is ironic that the character is a better "news" reporter than anything that is available to us on the interwebs. And they might just make me laugh again.

    What I keep seeing, constantly, around me is that the "Media" -- from the local advertisement delivery system "paper", to radio stations, to tv stations, to internet news sites, to (some days) this particular site, all now appear to have specific goals in their coverage, and wildly polarized interpretations of similar events. Certainly, things like the event in Las Vegas involving the 32nd floor shooter tend to have a *fairly* similar interpretation by most media, but take Mugabe at this time, or Vietnam at the moment, or the stream of 'inappropriate sexual behaviour' situations happening now, and there are insanely polarized views and interpretations in various media, and even more radicalized interpretations of those events on social media. All of the above results in greater fracturing of the proletariat, resulting in more and more aggravation between the groups that compete day to day for a few (dollars/pounds/euros/yen/grams of salt) in order to feed their families and dress their children.

    That there is/are group(s) that are marketing this function to the folks that *have* the (dollars/punds/euros/yen/grams of salt) in order to earn a few strikes me as both wildly ironic and terribly sad.

    Still looking for a lottery to help me buy my isolated south pacific island home.

    1. Brangdon

      Re: Ahhh. News, Fake News, opions, memes and social media

      Conflating fake news with biased news is part of the problem.

  11. ThatOne Silver badge

    Ethical solipsism

    Nowadays everybody knows (s)he knows everything (Dunning–Kruger effect galore), and that his/her opinion is inevitably the only true one; Differing opinions are either misguided, uninformed or malicious.

    Now add isolation (never being confronted by difference) and confirmation bias ("all my friends agree with me"), throw in a large pinch of modern communication means, and you start breeding "opinion crusaders".

    Those account for the fact that there is no civilized discussion possible anymore between (even slightly) diverging opinions: It's necessarily and always a "slaughter the infidels" kind of confrontation, one supposed to earn you fame & glory with your own camp. You aren't interested in what he other party might have to say, you only want to prove your loyalty to your camp by any means possible. Your prestige and (thus) self-confidence depends on it.

    People don't like changing opinion, it destabilizes them, and few have the strength to admit they have been wrong up to that point anyway. It's more comfortable to shoot the messenger.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Criminals are exploiting “fake news” for commercial gain

    BREAKING: Bear shit found in woods. More at 11.

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