Yesterday, I did a presentation at a customer site for their lunch time security talks. It was about Web 2.0 and protecting yourself online. One of the things I mentioned in my talk was how much people are trusting, blindly, what they see on the social internet.

For example, most of you reading this probably are the ones that set up your ADSL modem/router.  Some of you just went and grabbed on from your local computer store, others probably did some research first. Chances are some or all of that research was done on Whirlpool.  But who is on there? A couple retailers, manufacturers, and a bunch of hobbyists. Can you trust any of them to provide not only an educated well researched opinion, but an objective one? Maybe 1 in 20.

The most recent Black Screen of Death story that ran like wildfire through the internet this week (after going largely un-noticed last week when Prevx was trying to get into sensationalist journalism to drive traffic to their web site). Prevx stated in this post that this could affect “millions on Windows 7, Vista and XP”, and that it was due to a patch released by Microsoft. Neither of which was remotely true.

Funnily enough, they were offering a free tool to fix the problem, that they were the only ones reporting at the time. coincidence? But I digress for the moment.

When I heard about this, I tweeted that I thought it sounded like malware or a virus.  As it turns out, malware does appear to be the likely culprit. It was not linked to Microsoft’s patch, nor did it affect millions of anything. It was an irresponsible knee-jerk reaction to something that really should have been thoroughly investigated before being published on the wild-fire internet. Security and reactions to it are serious across the IT Industry, but it appears that Prevx didn’t think that applied to them.

So as far I my personal opinion goes, Prevx just became a non-entity. I can not trust anything they do from this point forward because they have proven to me that they do not actually check any facts before irresponsibly publishing things. Normally I give people more than one chance, but not where security or public safety is concerned.

What’s more, this “security” company was either:

A) infected with a virus and didn’t know or didn’t bother to investigate

B) Created it so they could flog their free tool to drive traffic to their site

Best case scenario they didn’t know they were infected and didn’t investigate before spouting off. Worst case scenario is B. I don’t know which and this is only my opinion but it bears thinking about.

Prevx has since apologised now that they took time to do their due diligence.

This is a huge problem in Web 2.0. Everyone thinks they are a professional journalist. They use hearsay and conjecture to make claims, usually of an inflammatory nature, just to see how many hits they can get, or to lash out.

In the days of traditional media journalism, the journalists had and understood a responsibility to find and report the truth. Then along came the National Enquirer, and then The Blog, and we started into this death spiral for truth in journalism.

The anonymity of the internet makes people say things they would never say in a forum where they would be held responsible for their actions. Everyone thinks they are entitled to spout nonsense about whatever topic they think is hot at the moment.

Hey, I’m all for personal expression, but don’t try to pass off your opinions as facts without doing your homework. I’m sure I’ve done it in the heat of the moment as well, but go back on the facts. I am certainly going to be holding my opinions until I’ve done my homework now.  Research your viewpoint, provide references and facts.  At the very least, it will gain you respect and people will think of you as a person that really can be trusted.

If you are on the receiving end, do your own homework. Don’t base your decisions on a couple of forum posts and a tweet or two.  Be your own best advocate.