April 23, 2020
HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER) – The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (NJOHSP) is leading New Jersey’s efforts to combat COVID-19 disinformation, rumors, and scams that may impact residents and businesses throughout the State.
NJOHSP is collaborating with the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, New Jersey Regional Operations Intelligence Center, and New Jersey State Police to provide the public with guidance regarding false and fraudulent information and activity stemming from the pandemic. A webpage, “COVID-19 Rumor Control and Disinformation Updates,” launched in mid-March is updated as new information becomes available.
“As we continue to aggressively fight the coronavirus through strict social distancing, the spread of inaccurate information on the impact and response related to this crisis is also dangerous,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “The only way to beat this pandemic is if each of our 9 million residents continues to follow social distancing measures, guidance from public health officials, and by supporting each other. We must remain on course, and our administration is determined to keep everyone safe with reliable information.”
The webpage, https://www.njohsp.gov/covid19, features unclassified intelligence products on COVID-19 disinformation, details about scams that New Jersey residents and visitors might be susceptible to, and cybersecurity alerts regarding potential threats to individuals and businesses caused by the pandemic.
“The sharing of disinformation is one of many tactics gaining traction by those seeking to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic, both across the United States and around the world,” said Jared M. Maples, Director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. “These actions can be harmful and detract from the efforts of our frontline workers in healthcare and law enforcement. In partnership with our federal, State, and local partners, my Office is committed to increasing awareness of these practices with a convenient and routinely updated resource.”
Multiple foreign nations are leveraging the pandemic to sow anti-US sentiment and undermine the credibility of the United States. This includes nation-state actors such as China and Russia using disinformation campaigns via multiple mediums to alter the views of individuals and distort facts. Additionally, individuals and groups domestically are using false or misleading information about COVID-19 to target their perceived adversaries and conduct scams.
The New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell, a division of NJOHSP, has reported an increase in targeted cyber threats and attacks toward healthcare institutions and various companies throughout the State supporting work-from-home solutions, such as video teleconferencing platforms.
NJOHSP encourages the public to use legitimate and credible organizations for accurate information, as well as to fact check claims from competing sources. Rumors can easily circulate within communities during a crisis, and the spread of disinformation can be stopped by choosing trusted sources of information. NJOHSP urges the public that if they “See Something, Say Something” by reporting suspicious activity to local authorities or the Counterterrorism Watch Desk by calling 1-866-4-SAFE-NJ or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.