Fake News and the Christian Response

Fake News. What’s a Christian to do?

There’s a lot of talk about Fake News these days. When you turn on the TV, pick up a newspaper or scroll through your favorite social media site, your mind will be crammed with all kinds of conflicting data. Did President Trump collude with Russians? Did Hilary Clinton delete thousands of emails? Was president Obama secretly siding with Muslims? We may feel we have the answers to these questions, but we will probably never fully know the truth. We only see these stories through the tiny window that is the media, and even then we only see the data that they want us to see, and with the slant that they want us to see it. So what’s a responsible Christian to do? I’d like to propose three principles of positive posting. Will you consider these the next time you share something on social media?

Verify articles before you share

The first thing to consider before sharing an article is the source. There are some news sites that are known to publish fake news consistently. Be cautious of websites ending in “.com.co” or pretending to be a well-known new source. These types of sites attempt to look like a valid news site (abcnews.com.co, abcnewsgo.com, etc), by having a similar URL or name. Be leery of sites that seem to have a lower quality of writing. Sites that publish real news will seldom use ALL CAPS TO GET A POINT ACROSS!!

The best method I’ve found for weeding through all the junk is to make an approved list of sites that you use to verify all news. I try and pick several sites from differing political views that are known to have a higher standard for journalism. Understand that all news comes through a filter, and different people will see the same news from different viewpoints. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to find unbiased news, but by listening to varying political views, you will have a better feel for the actual facts, and the truth is often found between the extremes. I use the following sites to verify news:

If you can’t verify the validity of the news, then you shouldn’t share it.

Care for people over politics

Something else to consider before sharing is that real people are listening. There’s something about hiding behind a screen that makes us a little bolder. Maybe it’s the safety of our living rooms, or the slight sense of anonymity that removes inhibitions, but it can cause us to say things that we wouldn’t normally say in person.

One thing I try to always do is picture myself sharing this information in person with those who would hold an opposing view. What would you say if you were face-to-face? Issues are important to us, and we have the ability and right to share what we believe, but don’t allow your viewpoints to crush your relationships. If you’re critical of an issue, then speak directly to the issue when posting, and not a person or his or her character (Tweet That!). It’s OK to say I absolutely hate what “this issue” has done to society.  It’s not OK to say that (liberal, conservative, you fill in the blank) idiots are the cause of all that’s wrong in the world today.

It’s OK to have an opinion, but care for people over your own political views. As a Christian you are called to show compassion, have patience, have humility and ultimately love and pray for those that treat you badly.

Share the real source of truth

The happenings of the last election gave me a new view-point and purpose for my social media posting. It was brutal.  I know many relationships suffered as a result of what was shared. I made a personal decision to use social media for good, and particularly in three ways: good spirited humor, teaching of positive moral values and encouraging others in their struggles.

As a believer, I’ll try and look for ways to incorporate the absolute truth of God’s Word in my posts. I don’t try to be preachy or to come across as arrogant, but I do believe in the changing power of the Word of God. There is so much negative in the news and in social media, so why not improve the lives of others by posting what is good (Tweet That!)?

Ransomware and spyware and malware, Oh My

Computer safety is front page news these days. Over the past couple months the cyber-world has faced several major threats. In May 2017 the WannaCry ransomware infected nearly 200,000 computers in 150 countries, and just a month later is attacked again by a similar bug named Petya. It can be a bit intimidating with viruses, malware, spyware, Trojans and other types of malicious software trying to infect you systems. In this article, I’ll explain the differences between the various computer attacks and help you find your way on the Yellow Brick Road of computer security.

Malware is a term created from combining the two words ‘malicious’ and ‘software’. This is a broad all-encompassing term used to describe any harmful software and includes everything in the list below.

A virus is computer code that attaches itself to another program or file allowing it to spread from computer to computer causing varying degrees of damage.  They usually sit dormant until activated by someone. A virus cannot stand alone. It’s just a segment of code that inserted into a valid program on your system and runs when the host program runs.

A worm is similar to a virus, but it is a stand-alone program. Once infecting a computer system it can automatically spread to other computers via existing email and contact lists found on that computer. There’s no need to double click a worm to get it going. I runs and spreads automatically.

A Trojan-Horse was named after the tactic used in the tale Trojan War where the Greeks attacked Troy by sneaking into the walled city in a large wooden horse.  The digital counterpart is a program that claims to do one thing, but does something else. You might download and install software that claims to clean your system, but behind the scenes it intentionally slows it down.

Spyware is software that usually does no harm to your system, but just tracks your actions—potentially recording your browsing habits and keystrokes and sending that info back to others. At its best, spyware is just annoying and used to prompt pop-up ads, but at its worst spyware is a path to identity theft.

Ransomware takes malicious software to a new level. As the name implies it takes your computer system hostage and promises to restore your files once a ransom has been paid. Petya is the latest of such attacks and in just a few days has spread to 64 countries infecting more than 12,500 computers.

So how do you protect yourself?  It’s not as easy as just clicking your heels together and thinking of a safe place. It’s impossible to be 100 percent protected from everything, but there are a few steps you can take to thwart most attacks.

Don’t open attachments.  Never open an attachment unless you know ahead of time what it is.  Even emails from your friends can contain malware. If you get an attachment from a friend, contact them directly and ask if they sent it.

Keep your operating system up to date. Those who create viruses look for vulnerabilities in operating systems (OS), and when found, they write harmful programs that take advantage of those loopholes. Operating systems like Windows XP have known vulnerabilities, and since Microsoft no longer supports XP malware has a free pass into those systems.

Keep your anti-virus up to date.  Most of the antivirus software out there (both free and paid) work well. The problem is many people do not update their virus definitions often enough.

Don’t connect to public Wi-Fi. If you absolutely have to use a public connection make sure you set it as ‘public’ when you set it up, that way your OS knows to lock down certain ports into your computer. When it comes to connecting to the internet there really is no place like home.

Staying safe is not difficult, but you must keep security in mind when using your connected devices.