Cyberwarfare brings food for thought

Today’s post in Techland, which ran through some of the background to the cut-off of internet connections to the politically unstable Egypt highlights how much of an integral part the internet is now to our communication.

You can take a look at the post here:

It is amazing how increasingly dependent we are on online communication, and on the networks that now join the world, that cyberwarfare is a viable part of military systems.

I recently read an article (my apologies because i can’t remember where I read it – one of those random things I came across on the Interweb!) that explained how Denial of Service (DoS) attacks are used as a part of war. DoS attacks are a type of cyberwarfare attack that floods a system with useless requests, effectively disabling it from doing its normal functions.

This article talked about how these attacks are increasingle being used as a pre-cursor to an attack, with the attacking military attacking telecommunications, banking and internet infrastructure to cut off an area from the rest of the world- delaying the spread of news and any intervention.

Food for thought??

….” says David.

The role of online and social media in natural disasters

As the cleanup continues from the tragic floods in Queensland, I thought it would be appropriate to write about the role that social media increasingly plays in both the immediate response to a disaster, and the long-term recovery.

Having worked through the Victorian Bushfires of February 2009, the preceding heatwave and an ongoing role in recovery, it has amazed me at how social media has become an ingrown part in major scale events – just as social media has become an integral role in day to day lives.

Here are just some observations that I have made both from the Queensland floods and the Victorian Bushfires – I’d appreciate hearing the thoughts of others on these topics.

People use social and online mediums to get information as it is happening  – Mobile phones are often the major means of two-way communication available to people in disaster situations. While radio is a universal source of emergency information, the increasing use of smart phones means that those caught in these circumstances are searching the web, or using tools such as twitter to get location based information.

Social media users try to do their part by forwarding information – Disaster information is one of the most highly forwarded or retweeted information in social media. Many users, who are often removed from the situation at hand, lend their support by forwarding information to ensure it reaches as wide of an audience as possible. This has its advantages, but also its dangers- as discussed below.

Incorrect information can spread like wildfire – Information on social media sites is placed on the good faith that the poster has the correct information at hand. In disaster situations, however, this good faith can sometimes be incorrect. This is not done through malicious intent by the poster, but can come about because emergency situations can often change faster than the speed of social media, or the heightened state of pressure present during a crisis can often lead to the misreading of a situation.

Social media can help monitor and address issues in disaster situations and recovery – The immediacy of social media makes it invaluable in the live monitoring of situations. Victims of natural disasters, often taken out of their comfort zones and regular modes of interaction with services, will often vent any frustrations through many outlets. Monitoring online mediums can help find issues that may not be being raised through offline means.

Online information and social media conversations needs to be a part of a multiple mix of tools for recovery – Talk to anyone who works in recovery and they will tell you that one of the hardest things about communicating with those affected by disaster trauma is the low levels of retention of information. Essential information impacting victims of recovery needs to be given using multiple mediums and repeated a number of times to ensure that it has reached and been understood by your audience. Online plays an essential role in this, as the displacement of large numbers of people during disaster recovery, means that online information is the one central point of information.

So what would I advise to organisations who are either dealing with the aftermath of disasters or ensuring they are prepared for them?

  1. Plan and test your social media strategy – Know how you will utilise social media if a disaster was to impact your organisation and make a plan for its monitoring and its use.
  2. Keep information up to date – It is essential that information is updated and updated quickly in disaster situations. Ensure that you have plans in place to get content up quickly. Are your web team accessible 24 hours a day or will essential information end up waiting till them come back at 9am on Monday??
  3. Monitor social media – Set up your means for monitoring social media. If you are working in a disaster area, set up searches to monitor discussion on the disaster. If the disaster is impacting a specific region, location based monitoring of a geographic area can be invaluable in seeing the online chatter coming out of that area.
  4. Respond to issues, no matter how small they may seem – It is important to remember that what can often seem like a small issue to those outside of a disaster can often be a 100 times worse to those going through trauma.
  5. Be vigilant about the accuracy of information and correct mistakes – Mistakes in disaster situations can often be the meaning between life and death, make sure that mistakes are corrected quickly.
  6. Don’t assume that just because something is online, that everybody has seen it or understood it – Don’t just rely on social media, your communications plan must try to reach people using a number of different tools and tactics.
  7. Remember that sometimes the best way to help someone is offline not online – While in this post I have been heralding the importance of social media, we cannot forget that human contact is one of the best ways of helping someone. Take things offline where possible.


Media apps highlight shift to mobile media in 2011

The days of buying the weekly TV guide and planning your week to make sure that you are home for your prime-time television favourites has gone out the door.

The ‘what I want when I want’ culture that has been boosted by the online world has seen a shift in viewing patterns, just as it has shifted the patterns of news-watching from the daily paper to the instant online news. These days, consumers will watch something on TV, but will use their digital recorders to keep track of programs they like, if they miss this they will view it on the website, download it on iTunes or download a pirated version for free (we all know that people do it!).

New applications now coming onto the market are making another shift to viewing patterns and it is my prediction that the shift to mobile will be the one to watch for 2011.

Yesterday Channel 10 released its application for iPhone and iPod Touch, allowing viewers to watch episodes and news on-the-move. This follows the highly rated iView application by ABC television for mobiles and tablets.

I know that some pay-TV channels have been simulcasting on mobiles through paid subscriptions for a while, but the investment into these mediums by free to air channels highlights the seriousness by which the market is now taking this.

This will also be seen in the radio world. As Jessica Northey said in her post Seven Digital media Trends of 2011 : “Any radio station without a strategy for reaching mobile users in 2011 is woefully behind and missing a major opportunity to reach literal movers-and-shakers in the marketplace.

My question is, can the Australian telecommunications infrastructure handle this shift in the traditional media space. We all know the woefully inadequate state of broadband, especially outside of metropolitan areas. Mobile data is in no better shape. Consumers may be ready to move, but are we really ready to handle it?

……,” says David.

What are your thoughts?