Today, capitalism and democracy seem to mean that it is never too early to take advantage of the misery of others, and the outbreak of the novel COVID-19 coronavirus is the latest evidence.
On Saturday, the Washington Post reported that a State Department agency had compiled a report on 2 million tweets that published conspiracy theories about the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Among the hoaxes compiled in the report and reported by the Post included the suggestion that the virus was caused by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or was the result of a bio-weapon developed by the Chinese government.
Overall, according to Swiss Post reports, these tweets make up about 7% of the tweets surveyed by the government.
Critically speaking, the report pointed out that some of the misinformation distributed online appeared to be the result of "spurious and coordinated activities," the post said in the document.
The report reflects warnings from cyber security companies like Check Point Software that have released a report that tracks the launch of new websites related to issues related to the Coronavirus outbreak earlier this month.
According to the company's Global Threat Index for January 2020, "cybercriminals are taking advantage of the global epidemic to spread malicious activity with multiple spam campaigns related to the virus outbreak."
The company correlated Google search terms with "malicious discussions" about the virus and showed that they correlate closely.
In one case, a hacking campaign targeting web users in Japan distributed malicious email attachments pretending to be a Japanese disability service provider. The email contained misinformation about the spread of the corona virus in several Japanese cities. When a user opened an attachment to the email, they downloaded a modular, self-propagating Trojan virus onto their computer.
Email campaigns were a threat, but another that the security company has been following has been new websites with domain names associated with the virus.
The company has already discovered a fake website, "Vaccine covid-19.com". It was first created on February 11, 2020 and registered in Russia. According to Check Point, "the website is insecure and offers to sell the best and fastest test for coronavirus detection at a fantastic price of 19,000 Russian rubles (about $ 300)."
Facebook, Amazon and Twitter have taken steps to remove misinformation about the novel coronavirus from their platforms, including advertisements that offer alleged cures for the disease.
Earlier this month, the major technology companies met with representatives from the World Health Organization to work out a plan and coordinate ways to combat misinformation and fraud online.
Earlier this week, Facebook made the following statement about its ongoing response to website misinformation campaigns:
With the World Health Authorities issuing new guidelines and warnings on the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we are continuing to work to connect people with information from regional and local health organizations and to limit the spread of misinformation and harmful content about the virus.
Connect people with accurate information and helpful resources
Anyone looking for information about the virus on Facebook will see pop-ups in addition to the search results, linking them to expert health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO). In the past few weeks, we have published them on Facebook worldwide in all languages and forwarded them to the WHO. In several countries, we direct people to their local health ministry. For example, in the United States, we forward people to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and in Singapore we forward people to the Singapore Department of Health. In addition, in countries where WHO has reported person-to-person transmissions and deaths, we have posted additional messages to people at the top of the newsfeed with more information.