Hackers Try to Target Users’ Minds

Hackers Try to Target Users’ Minds

Hackers are working on Cognitive Hacking these days where all you need to do is to spread disinformation and wait for the population to become distracted by indulging in meaningless arguments.

Hacking is generally associated with computers and it refers to an unauthorized access with the intentions to alter the regular flow of the system. The method adopted for hacking might vary from an instance to another but all of these techniques fall under three dimensions of cyberspace which are named as informational, physical, and cognitive. Informational hacking is linked with software while physical hacking involves exploitation of the hardware. Both these types are pretty common and hackers have been using these means for years. However, the third and final dimension is a newer target but it is surely the most important one.

Professor Dan Kuehl of the National Defense University predicted that cognitive hacking is just around the corner as traditional hacking activities will be used to develop thoughts and perceptions of the general public. The 2016 Presidential Elections of the U.S. were allegedly rigged by Russian hackers who framed the thinking of the people of the country to vote in favor of Donald Trump. Evidence for these claims can be found in the federal indictments that were issued in February and July. According to these indictments, Russian military as well as their civilians were involved in influencing the political views of the Americans. Some experts are claiming that they will repeat this process in the midterm elections of 2018.

Following the potential dangers of cognitive hacking, some people regard it as the latest form of ‘Hybrid Warfare’. According to their beliefs, the difference between traditional wars and unconventional warfare is diminishing rapidly due to the progress of these techniques. Intelligence agencies play an instrumental role in carrying out these activities. Despite the fact that it has grown immensely in the last few years, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that it is an old way of fighting battles.

Sun Tzu, a Chinese Philosopher who was also a Military Strategist, laid the foundation for this form of hacking by letting the world know that the best way to subdue an enemy is to misinform him or do a propaganda against him. A former KGB agent warned the American authorities in 1984 that this long-term process, which has the potential to destabilize the entire country, is not far away. His estimates were quite accurate as this is what is happening in the United States these days.

The strength of cognitive hacking can be judged simply from the following stat. @TEN_GOP, a Twitter handler for Russian hackers, got more than 100,000 followers. The working mechanism of this propaganda revolved around captioned photos and short animated graphics. The basic purpose of this propaganda was to enrage the followers by engaging them in exciting posts and discussions. A practical evidence of molding the thinking of the viewers was observed at the time of 2016 Presidential Elections.

A Russian Troll Factory had an online forum where people were supposed to rally both in favor and against both the candidates. Although the rally thing didn’t happen, the online feedback caused massive divisions in the society. Twitter accounts for local news organizations were also created because of the trend that the American community has more faith in local news sources than the national ones. One of the most prominent among them was Chicago Daily News. This news agency was officially closed in 1978 but a twitter handler (with this name) was formed in May 2014 which attracted 20,000 followers.

It is virtually impossible to analyze Digital Disinformation and that’s the reason why people from different sectors of life are spending on cognitive hacking. The list include intelligence agencies, advocacy groups, government programs, and companies. Similarly, social media giants like Facebook and Twitter are also failing to compete with this phenomenon.

The fact that both these companies make their money from user’s activity put them in a conflict that is proving a bit too much for them to handle. In these circumstances, the best way to protect yourself against cognitive hacking is to get as much knowledge as possible before arriving to any conclusion. Critical Thinking is a vital part of this system which allow the users to develop a strong society. Having said that, the first step in countering this kind of a hacking is recognizing that it actually exists.

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