Sunday, October 26, 2014

Computer Viruses Capitalize on Ebola Virus

Hi everyone!

We've talked a lot about the dissemination of information and what the general public knows about Ebola. Because we have so many different electronic sources of information, it's easy to fall victim to misleading information. Especially with Ebola, there seems to be this "fear factor"  that affects so many people -- even though other viruses like Enterovirus D68 are increasing in incidence in the US at a much faster rate. Computer hackers have capitalized upon this, sending viral attachments in emails with fear-inspiring titles like "Ebola Outbreak Now WORSE Than We're being Told" or other similar titles. We've drawn parallels between human viruses and computer viruses before, and here's one way that we can see that computer viruses are taking advantage of health crises. The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team advised people to not open, click on, or download the content from these spam emails, reiterating that the WHO does not send such blanket emails to the general public.This isn't the first time that scare tactics have been used by hackers; another similar incidence was in the 2003 SARS epidemic with the "Coronex" Microsoft Outlook virus that seemingly was passing on information about the coronavirus SARS.

On the flip side, there are many instances wherein social media and tech are being used to spread valuable information, such as social media apps in Nigeria used to report outbreaks and new patients or the BBC's WhatsApp-based public health service to give news to information to followers. I think it is interesting and important to consider how public health officials can better educate the masses about Ebola to avoid frantic Google searching or email forwarding that might lead to the spread of computer viruses. 

-- Nicole


1 comment:

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