News consumption from mainstream media and online sources have received a huge uptick globally, including Singapore, with the public forced to stay at home last year. It is also notable that online citizens from the country consume most of their news through social media.

This is proven by a recent Kaspersky research which revealed that majority (67%) of users in Singapore get their news updates from platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. The percentage is higher for Gen Z at 78%, followed by Millennials at 76%, Gen X at 54%, and Baby Boomers at 53%. This, however, does not mean absolute trust in information published on these platforms.

As online misinformation remains a concern online, the same survey conducted last November 2020 unmasked that almost 1-in-10 (13%) respondents admitted to sharing news before verifying if they are true. Such is highest among Gen Z (22%), followed by Gen X (14%), and Boomers (13%). Millennials logged the lowest in this aspect at 12%.

Table 1: Percent of social media users in Singapore who said they share news/articles on social media before verifying if it’s true

According to Ms Beverly Leow, associate psychologist at Mind What Matters, a reason for the low verification rates when it comes to sharing news online could be attributed to the self-presentation theory, where the individual desires to present him/herself in a certain way. Hence, when users are sharing information without giving it any thought, it is quite likely that they are motivated by the prospect of presenting themselves as updated and well-informed netizens.

The study, done among 1,240 respondents with 205 from Singapore, also found out that less than half (47%) of respondents across all generations said they read the full article before sharing it on their own account.

Southeast Asia internet users are approximately at 400 million with an additional 40 million people who were first-time internet users in 2020. In addition, Singapore ranks second place in Southeast Asia in terms of Internet penetration and our survey showed 34% of Singaporeans spend 1-2 hours more on online platforms post-lockdown, 31% added 2-4 hours, and some 8% with 4-6 hours more being spent on socialising online,” says Yeo Siang Tiong, General Manager for Southeast Asia at Kaspersky.

In a cybersecurity perspective, false information is a form of social engineering on a bigger scale being used by cybercriminals to effectively and easily victimise people and organisations. 2020 was plagued with phishing emails, scams, and fake domains piggy backing on COVID-19, and now on vaccines. This is why both individuals and businesses, with the current work-from-home format, should not take misinformation on social media lightly. With this pandemic being far from over, vigilance on information and links that we share is more than necessary,” Yeo added.

Awareness about misinformation online is, however, showing signs of growth in the region and in Singapore, with half of all local respondents across all generations saying that they do check the sources of information or news being circulated on social media before clicking “Share”.

Boomers in Singapore also lead the pack in confronting friends or family members who share fake news, based on their judgments, at 53%. They are followed by Millennials (26%) and Gen X (18%). Gen Z appears to be more polite, where none of them confronted their friends or family members.

Table 2: Percent of social media users in Singapore who would confront friends/family members who share fake news/articles

Blocking is another way users protect themselves from misinformation. More than one-fifth of the respondents in Singapore admitted blocking contacts who share articles they deem as inaccurate. The percentage of silencing online friends is highest with Gen Z at 44%, followed by Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials, with 33%, 22%, and 18%, respectively.

To help users protect themselves against cunning social engineering attacks on social media, Kaspersky experts suggest the following tips:

  • Check the source. Take a moment to think about where the communication is coming from; don’t trust it blindly. Check the links. Check the spelling. If in doubt, look for official news websites or company websites.
  • Break the loop. Social engineering often depends on a sense of urgency. Attackers hope their targets will not think too hard about what’s going on. So just taking a moment to think can deter these attacks or show them for what they are — fakes. Research and read thoroughly before sharing information on social media.
  • Don’t go too fast. Be particularly wary when you feel a sense of urgency coming into a conversation. This is a standard way for malicious actors to stop their targets thinking the issue through. If you’re feeling pressured, slow the whole thing down. Most of the time, social engineers won’t push their luck if they realize they’ve lost the advantage of surprise.
  • Think about your digital footprint. Over-sharing personal information online, such as through social media, can help attackers. We recommend you turn your social media settings to ‘friends only’ and be careful what you share. You don’t need to be paranoid, just be careful.
  • Secure your devices. For individuals, a combined solution of security products and practical steps can minimise the threats and keep your data safe online. For businesses, given the work-from-home environment, it is suggested to train your employees regularly about cybersecurity and protect your network with high-end but budget-friendly endpoint protection such as Kaspersky Endpoint Detection and Response Optimum.
Mark Ko

Mark Ko

Besides tech, I love chicken rice. Point me in the right direction and I'll go and try it. :)
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