What we want
To do more than just index websites, people, links, metadata.
To provide more than just another Machine Learning indexer that extracts a random text from websites.
To provide a new way of dealing with fake news, by merging Red Team tactics in handling fake news, fake news sources and promoters of fake news.
To be fully GDRP Compliant and follow local country and European Union rules and regulations regarding Privacy and Data Capture.
To give governments reliable data, in such a way that official posture is modelled based on the fake news phenomenon.
To provide a public API, where everyone can access real data about the phenomenon, where links between analysis items can show new connections and effects, probably not known until this point.
To show the influence of the virus spreading, correlated to the fake news phenomenon.
To transform "We don't know, what we don't know!" INTO something that we know now and in the future
The problem our project solves
Fake news has become an issue of 21st century unconventional warfare. Each crisis can present itself as an opportunity for interested actors, state or private, to manipulate the human factor in a society. New methods of producing news involve technologies, tools and services which are completely automated (AI, ML), and require minimal manpower to publish online.
Furthermore, social networks allow for a rapid dissemination of any kind of disinformation, be it video, text or image. Because we live in a society that touts itself to support freedom of any kind, limiting traffic of data over the web is detrimental to the present time. There is also the issue that there is an entire economy based on the news flow, with lots of websites gaining substantial money out of news publishing.
The current COVID-19 crisis, which reactivated one of the foremost historic fears of humankind (lethal pandemics), offers an important opportunity to launch disinformation campaigns for various reasons. Therefore, during what we call a global lockdown, the European Union is coping with the threat posed by fake news and disinformation around the COVID-19 virus topic. These fake news are directed either against the Union as a whole, and attempts to impact social stability, either to shake the already weakened economical structure of the states inside the European Union, by using manipulative messages. Primarily, they aim to discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deceive, disrupt, delay, deny, denigrate/degrade, and deter the COVID-19 related actions and information (news) issued and promoted by legitimate actors.
EuROCE (EuRoPean Cyber Experts) Team has decided to participate in the #EUvsVirus hackathon and provide a solution against fake news, where the members will bring their experience in cyber ops, social engineering, legal and business, in order to build the Fake News Hammer applicaton, a software tool which covers not only the news indexing, but also generates profiles, creates specific views on the indexed websites, supports autonomous data scraping and uses advanced red team tactics to try and get metadata about the fake news sources.
The main purpose of the proposed solution is to increase the correct and trustable information understanding around the COVID-19 phenomenon, for decision-making professionals and population. The secondary purpose is to support the identification and metadata collection on fake news websites in order to allow correlation between fake news and spreading of the virus over a geographical area, as well as the impact on the economics.
The solution we bring to the table
The Fake News Hammer Application will perform the following key functionalities:
- passively monitors COVID-19 news, by indexing public websites through certain analysis criteria of various metrics and key-content; and correlation algorithms;
- sustain global efforts to identify COVID-19 fake news, by revealing trusted data sources in parallel with potential misinformation and disinformation ones, which are automatically flagged;
- passively collects OSINT data and generates website profiles;
- runs mostly automatic, but has support for specific analyst users to run specialized profiling;
- generates Case Files for each website and supports various data analytics (geodata, content data, etc);
- generates map data with regions which might be affected by fake news (heat maps);
- generates data regarding possible meta links between pseudonyms publishing information on some website, locations, meta-data about locations (wifi networks, available cell tower data);
- scans sites and generates a technology stack on the website (web banners, software version, open ports);
- attempts to retrieve indirect data about the persons publishing on the websites from social media platforms;
- identify key tools and technologies used by the websites and check if they are the same with the ones used for promoting fake news and for launching public opinion manipulation campaigns - as available in websites or online marketplaces that support fake news;
- supports an API which can be queried by other third-party apps to be built based on the fake news hammer service (FNHS); One very important aspect that the FNH Application will offer is to also point to sources of official data showing what the reality is. For each fake news website, the application will attempt to retrieve data from official sources demonstrating that certain news are fake. The application will also score each fake news with a meta score and will attempt to generate “maps of influence” based on how fast a news has been spread. This will be done by identification of a potential original source, which websites have republished some news, dates and time stamps. By pointing to the original news (source) or to the news countering the fake news, we hope that our application can stave the fears of the general population and serve as a support for the competent authorities trying to stave or block the fake news wave. Once a considerable data amount has been gathered, the Hammer can also generate geodata (heat maps), overlaying the fake news spread in areas to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The reason we want to do such analysis is because some fake news might have been used to create social unrest or mass gatherings and either encourage or force people congregating on the streets or in certain areas, thus generating the risk of a wider virus spread. Such heat maps may show that some fake news waves may have had as a direct effect, the spread of the virus (intentionally or not). As a secondary feature, we will index the website with passive scans to spot vulnerabilities or threats in the structure or the technologies of the website, as well as common indicators that can group websites based on technology and host meta-data.
What we did over the weekend
We have built a prototype that shows the possible functionalities that our solution could provide. We have also developed a swagger api and an api data sample.
The solution’s impact to the crisis
Fake-news spread and disinformation in a sensitive domain like public health, could have long-term negative effects on people’s lives. Emotions like fear or uncertainty could deepen social isolation. In the near future, insularity might become a way of life. During the crisis, FNH Application can be seen as a trustable filter that monitors the news around COVID-19, and sustains global efforts to control them, providing website data gathering and OSINT entity profiling. Through the EU's umbrella, FNH Application analyses, identifies and flags untrustable sources, and contributes to sharing official / trustworthy information. Moreover, the application will help to interpret facts and identify sources of fake news in an awareness-raising manner.
The necessities in order to continue the project
We will test our idea during this hackathon to see how much traction it gets to the public, as well as specialized users. We will provide for additional information as the idea evolves into the final form. Based on this input we will adapt our idea and continue working on it. The current team structure contains solid experience in business, legal and extensive knowledge in intelligence analysis. The current team immediate needs relate to:
- Developers for Python, Java, Angular, front-end, back-end developers or Full-Stack Developer.
- 1 UX/UI designer/developer
- 1 Business system analyst with Machine Learning experience.
- 1 QA specialist.
- 1 Android developer Financial needs for ensuring implementation of the solution:
80.000 Euro as a one-off funding, and 40.000 Euro / year as investment for further improvements and updates, and for the subscriptions to commercial data related to fake news.
Non-financial support for roll-out:
Advisory board formed of experts media industry, representatives of competent authorities in EU Member States interested to encourage the use of the solution. Coaching & training.
The value of FNH solution after the crisis
The global effects of this crisis can be seen in various domains and it is already a fact that they will produce a long term impact. FNH Application represents one of the starting points for extensive and contextual understanding of the news around a phenomenon with long-term side effects.
FNH Application has general functionality and it is meant to act like a Hammer, in order to hit the “nails”, representing untrustable news spreaders. Hence, our “Red Team” approach.
We hope that our experience in the field of cyber operations, social engineering and legal applied in the cyber domain, can create a new solution with new methods and views in order to provide in an automated way a little more than just indexing.
FNH Application is now centered around the COVID-19 virus and the related news and fake news, but its features can embrace any other relevant topics. The application will continue to further expand and include more advanced features and functions, adapted to future challenges and technologies involved.
At this moment, it must be seen as an independent output display which can support indirect attribution of actions to individuals, groups or state-sponsored actors, following certain criteria.
In circumstances requiring further analysis, the FNH Application needs to correlate its activity with additional trusted sources and repositories of data. Thus, for long term premises, interpreting and sharing information through the application will facilitate Member States' information sharing and cooperation mechanisms in the field.
WE ARE MORE THAN JUST ANOTHER DATA INDEXER SERVICE!