Iron Mind: Defending Against Propaganda & Counter Victimization

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Thomas Jefferson had it right. Propaganda is the greatest threat to any democracy.

Or did you just believe a quote that I made up with a picture of him to add credence to this blog?

Iron Palm or Iron Hand is a body of training techniques in various martial arts. It is originally one of the 72 arts of the Shaolin. These conditioning techniques are typically meant to condition the hands to allow a practitioner to deliver very powerful blows without injury to his or her hands.

I am calling Iron Mind a practice of training and living which allows the practitioner to deliver powerful blows against propaganda and counter victimization.

I love Kung Fu Movies. I love the Wu-Tang and the Shaolin. When reading through Carbon Black’s latest Quarterly Incident Response  Threat Report, I was struck by how little practice we make out of hardening our minds against things like propaganda.

Today, I want to discuss hardening yourself against attacks. We all know about Phishing (or should) we all (mostly) have been trained in how to identify the email as suspicious. But what about an ad or a news article served up on a “trusted” social media site. Surely those must be vetted and sourced correctly right?

Our latest report shows just how little cost there is to perform this type of attack.

“LOW COST” “HIGHLY EFFECTIVE” what group wouldn’t use that method?

Being aware of the risks of being manipulated is step one. But what else can we do as people to prevent this manipulation?

“Every day we are bombarded with one persuasive communication after another. These appeals persuade not through the give-and-take of argument and debate, but through the manipulation of symbols and of our most basic human emotions. For better or worse, ours is an age of propaganda.” (Pratkanis and Aronson, 1991)

Let’s take a look at how one would start to train in what I will call the Iron Mind technique

Step 1:

Be Aware. We encounter propaganda daily. Think about all the ads for those new shoes following you around. Wouldn’t your life be so much better with them? Generally these aren’t meant to deceive but they do have a goal to get you to buy their thing over someone else’s. With the ability to instantly retweet or share on Twitter or Facebook people are on a daily basis spreading propaganda unwittingly (in most cases). Remember, propaganda is meant to deceive and manipulate people into doing something. Don’t be manipulated!

Step 2:

Educate yourself on how to recognize propaganda. Here are good ways to identify propaganda. If you start to ask yourself some simple questions about what you are seeing this may help you better become an Iron Mind:

Is it appealing to your emotional side, not your intellectual side?

Does it misuse stats to support one side of the argument?

Does it present only studies that support its own view?

Does it establish a false argument?

Does it distort facts to discredit an argument against it?

Does it misquote people? (see above)

Does it just have false information?

Does it use some catchy headline to attempt to get more shares?

Wikipedia does a fairly good job of describing all the techniques someone involved in manipulation may use. Read up on them. Someone is trying to get you to do something.  

I would also like too point to the work of The Institute for Propaganda Analysis. Which was around from 1937 to 1941. They identified 7 common devices for propaganda, seen below.

“We can more easily recognize propaganda when we see it if we are familiar with the seven common propaganda devices.” – Institute for Propaganda Analysis

While the delivery methods have changed fundamentally these haven’t:

  1. Name Calling. The most prolific form of propaganda.

“The name-calling technique links a person, or idea, to a negative symbol. The propagandist who uses this technique hopes that the audience will reject the person or the idea on the basis of the negative symbol, instead of looking at the available evidence.”

  1. Glittering Generalities.

“A glittering generality (also called glowing generality) is an emotionally appealing phrase so closely associated with highly valued concepts and beliefs that it carries conviction without supporting information or reason. Such highly valued concepts attract general approval and acclaim. Their appeal is to emotions such as love of country and home, and desire for peace, freedom, glory, and honor.”

  1. The Transfer.

“This is a technique of projecting positive or negative qualities (praise or blame) of a person, entity, object, or value (an individual, group, organization, nation, patriotism, etc.) to another in order to make the second more acceptable or to discredit it. It evokes an emotional response, which stimulates the target to identify with recognized authorities. Often highly visual, this technique often utilizes symbols superimposed over other visual images.”

  1. The Testimonial.

“Testimonial or show consists of a person’s written or spoken statement extolling the virtue of a product. The term “testimonial” most commonly applies to the sales-pitches attributed to ordinary citizens, whereas the word “endorsement” usually applies to pitches by celebrities. Testimonials can be part of communal marketing. Sometimes, the cartoon character can be a testimonial in a commercial.”

  1. Plain Folks.

“A plain folks argument is one in which the speaker presents him or herself as an average Joe — a common person who can understand and empathize with a listener’s concerns. The most important part of this appeal is the speaker’s portrayal of themselves as someone who has had a similar experience to the listener and knows why they may be skeptical or cautious about accepting the speaker’s point of view. In this way, the speaker gives the audience a sense of trust and comfort, believing that the speaker and the audience share common goals and that they thus should agree with the speaker. Also using an “ordinary background,” such as a park or a building, depending on the item you are advertising, will usually give it a higher possibility of more customers.”

  1. Card Stacking.

Cherry picking, suppressing evidence, or the fallacy of incomplete evidence is the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position. It is a kind of fallacy of selective attention, the most common example of which is the confirmation bias.[1][2] Cherry picking may be committed intentionally or unintentionally.”

  1. The Band Wagon. This is the “everyone is doing it” technique.

“The bandwagon effect is a phenomenon whereby the rate of uptake of beliefs, ideas, fads and trends increases the more that they have already been adopted by others. In other words, the bandwagon effect is characterized by the probability of individual adoption increasing with respect to the proportion who have already done so.[1] As more people come to believe in something, others also “hop on the bandwagon” regardless of the underlying evidence”

Remember its whole goal is to make you feel emotional and act. Stop. Think. Ask critical questions and then proceed. The only way to defend against it is to harden yourself and your mind. Just like security Iron Mind is a practice. You must train and use it on a daily basis.

“ In common with the aims of all good Kung Fu good Iron Palm aims to build the body up, not break it down. It is a gradual process. People used to everyday exercising and pushing themselves to the limit tend to want to bring the same attitude to Iron Palm. It must be remembered that pushing muscles to ‘failure’ means a bit of aching the next day and then they grow back stronger, Developing the hands without damaging them or creating calluses is a slow process.”

Hardening your mind is a slow process but it starts with awareness.

The post Iron Mind: Defending Against Propaganda & Counter Victimization appeared first on Carbon Black.

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About Carbon Black, Inc.
Carbon Black is the leading provider of next-generation endpoint security. Carbon Black’s Next-Generation Antivirus (NGAV) solution, Cb Defense, leverages breakthrough prevention technology, “Streaming Prevention,” to instantly see and stop cyberattacks before they execute. Cb Defense uniquely combines breakthrough prevention with market-leading detection and response into a single, lightweight agent delivered through the cloud. With more than 7 million endpoints under management, Carbon Black has more than 2,500 customers, including 30 of the Fortune 100. These customers use Carbon Black to replace legacy antivirus, lock down critical systems, hunt threats, and protect their endpoints from the most advanced cyberattacks, including non-malware attacks.

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