Last updateFri, 22 May 2020 12pm

Epidemic requires reliable sources

Crooks have created thousands upon thousands of fraudulent web domains related to coronavirus COVID-19 to prey on fearful and vulnerable internet users.

Rumors and misinformation abound, so facts are particularly needed in these stressful times. At times like these it is important to remember that knowledge abates fear, and even more important you need to obtain that knowledge from reliable sources.

The website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov) provides a portal for up-to-date information, as does the World Health Organization (who.int).  Both of these organizations are updating the content displayed on their web sites frequently, so it is worth your time to revisit them often.

In addition to those two web sites, statistics can be found on the web site “Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU)” found at coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.

The accuracy of the statistics found on that website should be regarded as a best-effort to present up-to-date information, but cannot be regarded as absolutely accurate.  Read the fine print and you will see that “confirmed cases include presumptive positive cases” and “recovered cases outside China are estimates based on local media reports”.  Obviously Hopkins University is using the best numbers available to it, but consider the reliability of the source(s) could vary depending on a country’s ability to do testing or on political biases.

Another source of statistics is found at worldometers.info/coronavirus.  Scroll down to the bottom of this web site to find a list of the sources of the statistics used.  Here you may click on links for the Australian Government Department of Health, BBC, and others.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) also has a very good web site found at jamanetwork.com.  Here is where I want to strongly urge readers to stay away from using search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.).  If you search for “JAMA” you could easily end up on a website for the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association or the Journal of Asian Martial Arts. While that search mistake would be obvious, you could just as easily end up on one of the thousands of fraudulent coronavirus web sites.

The results displayed by search engines can be manipulated by crooks, and if the search algorithm was fooled by a fake then you will be too! So I urge readers to stay far away from search engines including Bing, Google, Yahoo, etc. At the top of your web browser is the address line where you should manually type in “who.int” or one of the addresses previously mentioned. If that takes you to google.com then you misspelled something or entered the address on the search line and not the address line… and you could be on your way to some fake web site. Learn how to type the real address of a web site into the address bar to ensure you will get to the real web site and not a fake!

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant with more than 20 years IT experience and a Texan with a lifetime love for Mexico.  The opinions expressed are his own.  He may be contacted through his website at SMAguru.com.

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