Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Don't press the panic button...yet

My wife showed me a text message which she received on her mobile yesterday. I took a look at it and immediately started laughing. "Don't you believe it," I told her, "such fake emails will inevitably emerge after a disaster. It's meant to scare you and want you to send it out to other people you know."

"Well, we can't be too careful, can we?" she asked. "How do you know that it is not true?"

"It's not true because the experts around the world are saying so," I replied. "So far, the nuclear emergency in Japan is still under control and the explosion was due to hydrogen, not the radioactive materials in the nuclear plant." (This conversation too place yesterday before the situation in Japan turned slightly worse today.)

"How do you know that the experts are telling the truth?" she persisted. "What if it is a cover-up?"

"Aiyah, you have to listen to me, lah. Besides, we are so far away from Japan. Whatever radiation there will not get to us and would have been dispersed by the wind," I said.

I thought this was the end of the matter. And then today, I saw this item on the BBC website. Looks like hoaxers are using the BBC's name to scare people worldwide with this same story. It's become such a concern to the BBC that they are forced to issue a denial:

"A fake text message warning people that radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant has leaked beyond Japan has been panicking people across Asia. The text message, purporting to come from the BBC, has been circulating around Asian countries since Monday.It warns people to take necessary precautions against possible effects of radiation. The BBC has issued no such flash but it has caused particular panic in the Philippines."

And the BBC story further added: "Disasters such as that currently unfolding in Japan often trigger a rise in scam e-mails intended to fool users into downloading malware or simply to spread panic. The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) has told computer users to be wary of potential e-mail scams, as well as fake anti-virus and phishing attacks regarding the Japan earthquake and the tsunami disasters. "Such scams may contain links or attachments which direct users to phishing or malware-laden sites," it said."

There you have it, directly from the horse's mouth.

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