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Manipulating Google Flu Trends to perform cyber warfare?

I came across an interesting post at freedom-to-tinker discussing the impacts of google's flu monitoring program.

"My concern today is whether Flu Trends can be manipulated. The system makes inferences from how people search, but people can change their search behavior. What if a person or a small group set out to convince Flu Trends that there was a flu outbreak this week?

An obvious approach would be for the conspirators to do lots of searches for likely flu-related terms, to inflate the count of flu-related searches. If all the searches came from a few computers, Flu Trends could presumably detect the anomalous pattern and the algorithm could reduce the influence of these few computers. Perhaps this is already being done; but I don't think the research paper mentions it.

A more effective approach to spoofing Flu Trends would be to use a botnet -- a large collection of hijacked computers -- to send flu-related searches to Google from a larger number of computers. If the added searches were diffuse and well-randomized, they would be very hard to distinguish from legitimate searches, and the Flu Trends would probably be fooled."


"Why would anyone want to manipulate Flu Trends? If flu rates affect the financial markets by moving the stock prices of certain drug or healthcare companies, then a manipulator can profit by sending false signals about flu rates."

Read More: http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/blog/felten/can-google-flu-trends-be-manipulated


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