It is no secret that at a time when we are facing a global pandemic, we are more likely to be exposed to fake news. People who use social media in particular, are aware about this from their experience.WhatsApp applicationis one of the platforms where fake news is predominantly shared. Nearly two billion of the world’s mobile phone users use WhatsApp.Thus, WhatsApp is used by nearly 32 million people in Sri Lanka. Unidentified groups use WhatsApp to create fake spam messages and spread them among friends. On the other hand, some users make use of this platform to gather personal information about others.
Thus, , we sent a right to information application to the Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Response Team (Sri Lanka Cert | cc) on 25/05/2021 in seeking clarifications and further information on the above mentioned issues. Referring to the application, we asked what a spam message is. In response, CERT’s reply letter states that the unsolicited messages are often bulk messages that you do not request, and that these are often commercial in nature. In most of these messages, your personal information is being asked, while in some cases your financial information is also requested.Generally, you will receive such unsolicited messages via email, and the CERT states that opening such messages could expose your computer, cell phone, and other digital devices to malware.
Then we asked whether there have been any reports of fake spam messages that are being exchanged from 2020 to 2021? CERT replied that CERT does not make a separate classification on fake spam news and that it has collected information as per the table below.
|Incident Type||No. of Incident|
|Malicious software issue||9|
|Financial / email frauds||55|
|Intellectual property violation||1|
Consequently, the RTI application then asked the CERT whether there is any program in place to assess the impacts of such messages on the public and to counter-attack such unsolicited fake messages. I In this regard, CERT has emphasized that the best course of action for these issues is to conduct public awareness programs and that the CERT conducts public awareness sessions from time to time.Moreover, the CERT stated that they have also made public the programs carried out by CERT in its respective social media platforms and that it has published information on current cybersecurity issues on their web page.