Another OSINT Blind Spot: Fake Reviews

November 9, 2022

Fraud comes in many flavors. Soft fraud is a mostly ignored branch of online underhandedness. Examples range from online merchants selling products which don’t work or are never shipped to phishing scams designed to obtain online credentials. One tributary to the Mississippi River of online misbehavior is the category “Fake Reviews.” These appear on many services; for example, Amazon. Some authors and publishers crank out suspicious reviews as a standard business practice. Those with some cash and a low level of energy just hire ghost promoters on Fiverr-like services.

I noted “Up to 30% of Online Reviews Are Fake and Most Consumers Can’t Tell the Difference.” The write up says:

The latest survey from Brand Rated shows nine out of ten consumers use reviews to help decide what to buy, where to eat and which doctor or dentist to see. Experts say that’s a problem because up to 30% of online reviews are fake. “My research shows that the review platforms are just saturated with fake reviews. Far more so than most people are aware of,” said [Kay] Dean [Founder of Fake Review Watch.]

Several questions, assuming the data are accurate:

  1. What incentives exist for bad actors to surf on this cloud of unknowing?
  2. How will smart software identify “fake content” and deal with it in a constructive way?
  3. How many of the individuals in this magical 30 percent will have difficulty making sense of conflicting technical or medical information?

Net net: Cyber crime (hard and soft) are entering a golden age. OSINT analysts, are you able to identify real and fake in a reliable way? Think carefully about your answer.

Stephen E Arnold, November 9, 2022


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