from Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program and Net Politics

Cyber Week in Review: April 17, 2020

Police officers advise women to maintain distance as they wait to collect grocery during an extended nationwide lockdown to slow the spreading of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ahmedabad, India.
Police officers advise women to maintain distance as they wait to collect grocery during an extended nationwide lockdown to slow the spreading of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ahmedabad, India. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Phone towers in the Netherlands and UK attacked; The UK plans to launch coronavirus tracking app; Indian state insists infected individuals take hourly selfies; Department of Defense fails to implement its own cybersecurity guidelines, report says; and Facebook will alert users who interact with coronavirus misinformation.

April 17, 2020

Police officers advise women to maintain distance as they wait to collect grocery during an extended nationwide lockdown to slow the spreading of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ahmedabad, India.
Police officers advise women to maintain distance as they wait to collect grocery during an extended nationwide lockdown to slow the spreading of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ahmedabad, India. REUTERS/Amit Dave
Blog Post
Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

Phone Towers in the Netherlands and UK Attacked

Over the past week, twenty cell towers were attacked by suspected arsonists in the UK and four phone masts were damaged in the Netherlands. Officials blame the attacks on anti-5G groups, including conspiracy theorists who incorrectly claim a link between 5G installations and the global coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, Eamonn Holmes, a prominent presenter on the UK’s ITV network, ignited controversy when he claimed that nobody knew whether reports of connections between 5G and coronavirus were true. He walked back his comments on Tuesday, saying that “[e]very theory relating to such a connection has been proven to be false and we would like to emphasize that.”

The UK Plans to Launch Coronavirus Tracking App

On Sunday, the UK government confirmed it plans to launch a mobile app to help with coronavirus contact tracing. The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) will start testing it in England this week. According to the government, enrollment in the app would be voluntary—infected users report their diagnosis on the app, which would then alert others with whom they had been in close proximity. The NHS plans to leverage Apple and Google’s newly announced coronavirus-tracking application programming interfaces (APIs), though Ross Anderson, an expert at the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory, raised several doubts about the real-life effectiveness of the plan. In particular, he warned that a voluntary app with anonymous participation would be ripe for trolling.

Indian State Insists Infected Individuals Take Hourly Selfies

More on:

Cybersecurity

Coronavirus

Public Health Threats and Pandemics

Social Media

India

The Indian state of Karnataka has begun using an app to monitor individuals quarantined with coronavirus. The app tracks a user’s location and requests they submit hourly selfies to prove they are still in their home. The state warned that violators would be sent to government-run quarantine centers, which have been criticized for being unsanitary. The Karnataka government has also released a list of addresses of those under quarantine, which privacy activists have criticized. The government’s idea was inspired by a similar plan that has been successful in Hong Kong, where neighbors have also been encouraged to report quarantine violations. India’s National Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 gives the government essentially unlimited surveillance powers to control disease.

Department of Defense Fails to Implement Its Own Cybersecurity Guidelines, Report Says

On Monday, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on the failure of the Department of Defense to follow through on its own cybersecurity goals. According to the report, the department completed only four out of eleven objectives in cybersecurity education and six of seventeen in vulnerability reduction that it set for itself in 2015. The status of several other targets was unknown, since no one at the Defense Department had kept track of progress towards achieving them. The department defended its behavior, claiming that it had changed its priorities to keep pace with an evolving cybersecurity landscape. GAO responded by saying many of the initiatives were basic cybersecurity practices that remained relevant.

Facebook Will Alert Users Who Interact With Coronavirus Misinformation

On Thursday, Facebook announced that it will display warnings to users who interacted with misinformation about the novel coronavirus that the company has since removed and will redirect them to the World Health Organization’s page on common coronavirus myths. According to the BBC, the move was prompted by a study of misinformation on the platform by activist group Avaaz, which showed millions of users were still being exposed to misinformation about the virus, despite the company’s previous efforts. Avaaz also found that it took up to twenty-two days for warning labels to be attached to content identified as misinformation and that almost a third of misinformation went unlabeled in English, with even worse performance in other languages. According to Fadi Quran, campaign director at Avaaz, Facebook is the first social media platform to pledge to warn all users who have been exposed to coronavirus misinformation.

More on:

Cybersecurity

Coronavirus

Public Health Threats and Pandemics

Social Media

India

Creative Commons
Creative Commons: Some rights reserved.
Close
This work is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) License.
View License Detail
Close