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Virtual Disaster Awareness

Virtual Disaster
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Sometimes, I feel like describing the change of the society influenced by technologies – what we might call ‘technological determinism’. Sometimes, articles come up because of the strategic considerations of my doctorate studies. Sometimes, it is all about the ‘nature’ of the Internet, the inherent freedom and the crackdown of governments in a sphere they do not know about well. More and more, I am working on articles which might have a real impact. Not world changing but maybe (virtual-) life changing. It is all about raising awareness about things that can crawl up the deep, black void of the Internet onto your computer and steal or destroy everything your virtual life stands for. After that preclude, of course, you can expect an article on that.

Last week, a strong typhoon hit the country where I am currently based. So far nothing new. Intensity was higher than usual. Then it happens what always happens in social networks: people are posting and blogging about the situation going on. Missed people, incidents, flooded areas and of course the call for relief goods and help. So far so good. Here is what I posted on my social networking sites: ‘best time for those with Filipino emails asking for ‘relief goods’ etc. – be aware what attachments you open in your emails and what links you click! Disasters are the ‘best’ opportunity for cyber scammers and criminals’.

While people more and more start getting it that there is no such a thing as ‘look who checked your profile’ or some busty girl pictures promising something they tend to overlook the most obvious threat: the ability of criminals to make money out of the misery of other people. During disasters such as typhoons, floods or exploding nuclear power plants, people feel sympathetic with the victims and want to spent a little amount of money or goods. The easiest way to do so is to follow some websites and transfer the money online. They might even think that ‘oh well, if it is fake, it is just a little money, I would not care’. But it is not about the 5$ you are transferring. It is about the links you click and the documents you download in order to ‘donate’ your 5$. They might even arrive at their destination and enabling someone to by clean drinking water. However, your computer might end up with the TDL4 rootkit or other stuff which is going to cost you much more then only 5$. Maybe even your identity. So much to ‘what happened’.

The question now is: does the government provide any protection at all? Did you read or listen to any warning? Did you see any of your friends posting any warning about what I just described when the last disaster (maybe the one in Japan) took place? The point is: We are living in the 21st century for some time now. Disasters have been utilized for cyber scam and criminal activities for some time already and still no public institution manages to particularly warn and raise awareness. What’s wrong with them? It gave me a headache thinking of reasons why no one really wants to have awareness raised. Because less people would give money? Well, maybe. But if you are the government, you might to come up with mechanics that keep people safe and money flowing. For example, channeling money through a central point where NGOs etc. will be checked. Note: Does not work with a corrupt government. Money will never arrive at the account of destination. Well, I can think of some nice ideas how to make that work but keep the people safe. And, last time I checked, keeping your people safe is the first and most important duty of a government.

Go awareness!

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