This is how you ban broken and malware links from your website

Perhaps you have also visited a website on which the error message “Malware on subsequent website” suddenly appeared. In this case, it is a so-called “blacklisted domain” or malware page, where the desired website cannot be accessed for security reasons. Your browser indicates this by the error above the message.

Computer face with thermometer in its mouth. Could be a broken laptop computer or one that has a virus or other malware, vector

Broken links or even those that lead the visitor to your site to an offer contaminated with malware are not only bad for the user experience and your reputation as a website operator but also Holy Google a thorn in the side. Fact: Such mistakes are natural for any visitor your team annoying because then the information can certainly not retrieve.

In addition to limited user-friendliness, the search engine ranking also deteriorates, as these subsequently assume that a page that contains broken or even malware links is no longer up-to-date, and the page’s usefulness is reduced.

I would like to go into this problem in more detail below.

What are the broken links?

Broken (“broken”) links are usually links that lead to a page that (apparently) no longer exists. The requested page was simply not found. This is the so-called 404 error, which is one of the most common critical HTTP error messages and thus one of the client-side errors.

This is what the 404 page on Oreo.com looks like, for example. 

These can also be linked images that no longer exist. If you click on it, the picture does not appear in full size or does not point to another page, but only shows the 404 error. Or the embedded image is not displayed at all, which in turn reduces the value of a page.

Broken internal and external links also belong to the broken link category. Also includes:

  • A URL points to a file that has been deleted, renamed, or moved,
  • Links that don’t work because the target domain is still empty or has been newly registered.
  • The requested page cannot be reached due to network problems.
  • The server itself throws an error 500 (and nobody cares)
  • The destination URL itself was misspelled, so the reference cannot be executed correctly.
  • The target domain has been deleted and can no longer be reached.
  • A domain has been parked, and the old, formerly valuable content has disappeared

Malware links and malware domains – what are they?

Malware domains differ from broken links again in that not only a single article or a single picture no longer exists, but it is entire pages that were adopted with malicious intentions and that now play malware, viruses, and advertising scam.

Google usually classifies such a domain as a “blacklisted domain” within a few days.

On formerly valuable sites, malware can be played from one day to the next.

Problem: Parked and even blacklisted domains are displayed as error-free by link checkers 

parked domain is an Internet address that is temporarily (no longer) provided with the content. In many cases, however, these domains show advertisements and advertising links to generate additional income. The aim is to use this income to bring the registration costs of the area until it can ultimately be sold or rented to someone else.

Unfortunately, you often come across parked domains. Here you can see one of the less annoying variants.

The problem? First, parked domains are devoid of any use for their visitors. Second, these sites usually respond with a “200 OK The request has succeeded “code.

While links with a 500 or 404 error can be found very easily using the Brokenlinkcheker plugin for WordPress or the “Check My Links” Chrome extension, this is not the case with parked and blacklisted domains .

Dead links, blacklisted domains and SEO

Anyone who is concerned with search engine optimization knows that Google’s goal is to provide users with a precise and best possible search result and to filter out undesirable results.

The focus here is on the quality of the search engine results. Pages that are of no use to the user are affected by this update.

Blacklisted domains are entered on publicly accessible lists in which spam and hacked pages are reported. One of the more public records is, for example, the Google Safe Browsing list. With a blacklist check you can check which pages are listed here.

Malware solution: How to track down blacklisted and parked domains

If you want to reliably find pages with broken links, blacklisted or parked domains on the internet presence of your customers, you cannot avoid a reliable link or blacklist checker.

The professional link checker includes the “Dr. Link Check,” which comes from the German software company Wulfsoft in Münster.

Here is an example of how Dr. Detects link check domains with malware.

What is Dr. Link’s check?

At Dr. Link Check is a browser-based app. So you don’t have to download and install a program.

Do you let Dr. When running Link Check on your customers’ website, the following three main categories are checked:

  • Broken link check: Has the URL been formatted correctly, or is the server responding in a reasonable amount of time? Is it the right SSL certificate? Is there a return code for an error, such as the 404 error?
  • Blacklist check: Can the link be found on the blacklist where websites with malicious content can be found?
  • Parked Domain CheckIs the link a placeholder? Does the website or the link have any valuable content and maybe only have advertisements?

Dr. Link Check differentiates between broken links, blacklisted, and parked domains.

With the help of Dr., You don’t need to check Link Check all subpages of a website manually. With a click of the mouse, the link checker browses through all subpages and analyzes them in detail.

You will then receive a detailed report and can see where you need to intervene.

Start with your homepage URL

To start a review, you should contact Dr. Start link check with the homepage. From there, the link checker searches through all HTML and CSS of your website. He checks all internal and external links; Even broken links from the stylesheet are recorded.

Several tests lead to success

Dr. Link Check checks all links in several runs. The tool thus ensures that, for example, pages that only have a short timeout are not listed as false positives.

Dr. Link Check checks for the following error messages:

  • Parked,
  • 404 Not found,
  • SSL Error (if the SSL certificate is invalid or has expired),
  • Host not found (the domain no longer exists, or the DNS does not resolve correctly),
  • 403 Forbidden,
  • 5xx server error,
  • Invalid URL,
  • Timeout (if, for example, the server is down),
  • Other,
  • Blacklisted,
  • 401 unauthorized,
  • Connect error

Pricing & pricing options

Dr. Link Check is available in four different versions:

  • Lite version,
  • Standard version,
  • Professional version and
  • Premium version,

The lite version is free and only checks up to two websites with a maximum of 1,500 links per page. Only one type of broken link check takes place here.

The standard version costs $ 10 a month. This includes five websites with a total of up to 10,000 links. You can increase the number of connections, whereby the price also increases. In addition to a broken link check, it also includes a blacklist check, an SSL certificate check, and a scheduled check.

The professional version costs $ 21 a month. There are ten websites with 20,000 links per site, whereby you can individually increase the number of connections. This version offers the full analysis program and also provides a parked domain check.

The full program also offers the premium version for $ 33 a month. This includes 30,000 links per website. This number can also be increased depending on the price.

Conclusion

If you want to check your site for broken links, parked domains, or even blacklisted sites, then Dr. Link Check provides all the necessary tools in a clear user interface.

With this browser-based application, you always have all vital information in view and can carry out efficient on-page SEO when improvements and corrections are pending.

In addition to the free version, the paid versions are ideal for extensive analyzes to keep your website and that of the customers in good shape.

What is happening to net politics in Russia

The Russian state wants to monitor the Internet in the country more closely than before with a law. The goal, critics fear, is to control political communication. Can it succeed?

“Fake”: A young opposition man protested in Moscow in March 2019 against the law that the Russian state wants to use to control the Internet more closely. 
( Photo: picture alliance / ZUMA Press)

When tens of thousands of Muscovites took to the streets last summer, they knew it wasn’t going to be a walk. They protested for free elections when the state power quickly shows its hardest side. But hardly anyone had expected such a massive intervention on July 27, 2019: The number of 1,373 people arrested was not expected. One did not count on the batons of the Russian National Guard, which fell again and again on men and women of all ages. And you didn’t count on what happened to the ATMs in the city centers: they no longer worked. The cell phones of many demonstrators were also unable to dial into the Internet. The providers explained this by overloading the network. In the following weeks, some activists carried devices with them to measure the data flow precisely. By August 31, at the latest, they had the proof: The 3G and LTE frequencies were no longer available at some providers, but phone calls were still possible. The Internet was not congested. It had been turned off.

The everyday life of the protests in Hong Kong caused outrage in Russia. After all, the network was the place where Russian citizens could feel for decades the freedom they often missed in the offline world. You should understand it no later than November 1, 2019 – the day on which the “sovereign internet” law came into force.

Sovereign, so the writers of the law say, that means security against dangerous content, but also independence from abroad and its harmful influences. All internet providers have to interpose powerful filter technology with which the state can potentially monitor and manipulate every data packet. If desired, access to certain offers – such as Facebook or Google – could be restricted or blocked. In an emergency, such as during protests or before elections, according to the law, parts of the Russian Internet could even be disconnected entirely from abroad.

Critics of the law say that only the state wants to become sovereign on the Russian Internet. If the technology works, it will amount to potential total surveillance. And should it not work – which some experts assume: state-of-the-art contracts for filter technology alone are awarded, and civil servants and entrepreneurs could benefit from it. Also, the law has a symbolic effect – as the most severe attack on a free internet that has been appreciated in Russia for decades.

It is blocked today – unsuccessfully

A Friday evening in mid-October 2019, it is Wladislaw Sdolnikow’s 30th birthday. The blogger does not feel like celebrating today; he just toasts with coffee in a to-go mug before talking about the future of the Russian Internet in a small café in downtown Moscow.

Blogger and activist Vladislav Sdolnikov uses a telegram channel on which he shares the latest information on Russian Internet censorship. Not least because of this, the messenger is a thorn in the side of the state.

Sdolnikow was one of the people who investigated, documented, published, and shutdowns during the summer protests. He is a blogger, activist, IT specialist, one of the most high-profile experts on internet blocking in Russia. It was a busy month behind him: it wasn’t just the Moscow city elections in September, in which opposition candidates were not admitted, a summer full of protests, arrests, harassment, online and offline. There was also Sdolnikov’s break with the anti-corruption initiative of Russia’s best-known opposition politician, Alexei Navalny, which he advised voluntarily for seven and a half years. He doesn’t want to burden himself with the internal intrigues and power struggles, he says.

Because the worrying thing is that it is the law of the sovereign Internet, which is to be fully implemented by 2021, there is a video recording of the first meeting of the responsible committee, Sdolnikow says: “Old, not necessarily smart people talked for an hour and a half about how best to turn off the Internet.”

Technically, it is already possible to force Internet providers to block certain offers. There is a list of IP addresses that cannot be accessed on the Russian Internet. The LinkedIn job network, for example, is not available because the US provider does not save any data on Russian servers.

If you believe Sdolnikow, the Russian state wants full control over what citizens can see and write on the Internet. “Of course, the presidential administration dreams of switching off YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. But she also understands very well that she can’t do it from one moment to the next,” he says. On the one hand, that would cause protests among the population. On the other hand, it could currently be easily circumvented – for example, if you pretend not to be in Russia at all using VPN access.

Sdolnikow himself has shown how this is technically feasible: When people tried to block the messenger service Telegram in Russia in spring 2018, he developed the TgVPN offer. This and similar applications showed the Russian state the middle finger: you want to block Telegram? See, we’re just getting around this lock. The messenger remained functional, became even more popular; every third Russian smartphone owner now uses it.

“Old, not smart people spent an hour and a half talking about how best to turn off the Internet.”

This is mainly due to the channels that you can subscribe to on Telegram: there is one for every topic that you can imagine. Sdolnikow also has his own. With around 50,000 followers, the most successful channel on the subject of internet censorship, it provides its subscribers with the latest information. In Russia, telegram channels are part of the social media mix, just like an Instagram profile or a YouTube channel. In essence, newspapers have avenues in which they advertise their articles; celebrities share memes and holiday videos, bloggers send authentic reports, or even distribute them Hoaxes and rumors. There are political discussion groups but also channels with original and inhuman content. Everyone can write about what he or she wants, anonymously, and encrypted.

When the internet police screw up

Authorities usually have two names in Russia. An official one that hardly anyone remembers and an abbreviation. It is the same as the authority that monitors the Internet. While hardly anybody knows the “Federal Service for the Supervision in the Field of Communication, Information Technology, and Mass Communication,” the acronym “Roskomnadsor” has become a synonym for Internet police.

This agency is relatively young; it was founded in 2008 and has grown more powerful year after year. Since 2012, she has been monitoring the list of dangerous websites and has carried out bans – especially those related to child pornography, drugs, extremism, but also calls for mass protests. Some breakdowns caused a lot of malice on the Russian Internet. In 2016, for example, all offered hosted by Amazon Web Services (AWS) in Russia for a short time, from Netflix to Dropbox. The reason: only online poker advertising should be blocked. However, it was hosted by AWS. This had a fatal consequence: Roskomnadsor inadvertently blocked everything that was sponsored by AWS.

An anonymous internet activist sprayed “sovereign internet” on a house wall in Russian in Ekaterinenburg. If you change the letters according to the IP address underneath, a new word results: “Superstitious Internet”.

The case showed what a savage means such full closures can be. With the law on the sovereign Internet, the Russian Internet police should now have a more precise instrument at hand: Russia-wide DPI technology (DeepPacket-Inspection). With devices that every Russian Internet provider has to interpose according to the law, every data packet on the Russian Internet could be checked – sender, destination, content – and, if necessary, filtered out.

However, it is not yet clear how DPI will work on a Russian-wide scale. Roskomnadsor carried out the first DPI tests in the Urals in autumn. If you believe the independent Russian journalist Alexandra Prokopenko, the tests failed for the time being. It relies on several sources from the administrative apparatus. For this purpose, the software has already appeared that shows users whether their data packets are filtered with DPI technology. “It doesn’t look like the instruments are working,” says Prokopenko.

Above all, she sees DPI as a political tool, a tool for propaganda. The Russian leadership considers the technology to be a promise, she says, a modern solution to counter the negative feelings of the Russian population. “One way to ensure stability and increase survey values ​​is to influence information: not just emphasize the positive, but block the negative – literally,” says Prokopenko.

Roskomnadsor now has until January 2021 to remodel Russia’s Internet. Cynics may be surprised that this has not happened before. It is not without certain humor that it is thanks to one man of all that Chinese conditions did not prevail on the Russian Internet from the start—the man who is now at the head of Russia.

It was December 28, 1999, when the Russian Prime Minister invited twenty leading representatives of the still young Runet (short for Russian network) to the White House. The name of the then 47-year-old: Vladimir Putin. He was to be promoted only three days later – and thus received the title that he still holds today: President of the Russian Federation.

The question that interested the Russian government at this meeting: Should the state control the allocation of domains? However, the Internet representatives suspected, some of them subsequently reported that the question of which controls on the Internet should be expected would also be decided. It was agreed that the less state, the better for business – and the Internet. You were successful. In the end, Putin, who probably did not see a threat to his power from the Internet, made a promise that would later be cited and should apply for more than twelve years: “We will not even seek the balance between freedom and regulation. Our choice will always serve freedom.”

What followed were the golden years of the Russian IT industry. Large companies emerged, most of them based on the American model; Yandex found its business model on Google and is now the leading search engine in Russia: almost 60 percent of users use Yandex, less than 40 percent use Google, the Yandex statistics service shows.

The social network VK is accessed three times as often by Russian users as Facebook, and the second most popular network ok.ru beats the US platform. Only Instagram has no successful Russian equivalent. Ozone is considered a Russian Amazon; the US group does not even have an independent offer in Russia.

Hardly any other country has managed to create such a large number of its own companies and offerings that, in the long term, have defied and even overtaken US suppliers – except the People’s Republic of China, whose Internet has been restrictive from foreign offers from the start was sealed off.

“The Russian Internet of the nineties shows what the Russian population is capable of if you don’t harass them,” said filmmaker and journalist Andrej Loschak in an interview. In seven episodes, over four hours in total, he traces the stories that were written in the Runet. What begins as a class reunion, in which older men remember the exciting years nostalgically, ends with the dystopian present. Large companies like Yandex or mail.ru, although they are all still highly profitable groups, yet innovative, but they are increasingly under the Kremlin’s nose. In essence, state-critical entrepreneurs are leaving the country, oligarchs with ties to Putin are securing shares in large one’s Internet companies; social networks cooperate with security authorities.

Significantly, documentary filmmaker Loschak does not meet many of his protagonists in Moscow or St. Petersburg, but in villas in Silicon Valley. Russian investor Yuri Millner, for example, who made a billion fortune thanks to the runet, explains in front of the camera that he no longer holds any shares in Russian companies. Why that was recently observed in mid-October 2019: When the Kremlin supported a bill that would limit foreign participation in Russian Internet companies, the search engine company Yandex lost 18 percent of its market value in one day. The draft was changed quickly, and the stock has been recovering ever since.

“The Russian Internet of the nineties shows what the Russian population is capable of if you don’t harass them.”

But it’s not just investors who are turning away from the Runet; many programmers are also leaving their homes. Russia’s technical and mathematical education, praised worldwide, has produced some of the best coders in the world. But now they prefer to work in California or Germany, in London or Dubai than in Russia. However, some of them continue the conflict with the Russian authorities. So also a rival of Roskomnadsor, who inflicted a painful defeat on the body in 2018: the now 35-year-old Pawel Durow.

A paper plane as a sign of freedom

It was October 10, 2006, Durov’s 22nd birthday, when he opened the window on the new Russian Internet from Saint Petersburg. VK went online that day; in the west, the offer is often disparagingly referred to like a Facebook clone. But Durow quickly developed the social network into a platform that Facebook was superior to in many ways. For example, music and videos could be uploaded and shared with friends, copyrights and Internet piracy were of little concern to Durow. VK was the place that young Russians didn’t want to leave.

So it was also the place where VK users organized themselves in groups for demonstrations in 2011. The Russian domestic intelligence agency FSB asked Durow to close these groups, given the so-called “Arab Spring.” Durow refused; in the summer of 2013, he even followed up with the encrypted messenger app Telegram; as the logo, he chose a paper plane. Pressure on Durow continued to increase until the prosecutor’s office investigated him. He is said to have injured a traffic police officer during an inspection. In April 2014, Durow sold his shares to Putin friend and entrepreneur Alischer Usmanow, resigned as CEO of VK, and left the country with his older brother Nikolai, a gifted coder and mathematician. The Messenger Telegram, however, was not to be missed

On April 17, 2018, Roskomnadsor finally decided to block Telegram. Russian providers were asked to block the requests that targeted the IP addresses of the Telegram servers. The messenger should no longer be usable in Russia. Shortly after that, both Telegram and various users tried to establish a connection via proxy servers, which in turn were targeted by Roskomnadsor. What happened in 2016 with that of AWS hosted online poker advertising occurred – only to a much larger extent, so that the Russian Internet NGO Roskomsvoboda spoke of the “IP genocide”: access to more than 15 million IP addresses was blocked, most website operators were uninvolved. It wasn’t just the websites of small and medium-sized companies that went offline. Devices in hospitals that were connected to the Internet no longer worked.

Such cases are particularly problematic about the current law on the sovereign Internet, explains analyst Alexandra Prokopenko. Because whoever is liable for damage caused by government intervention on the Internet is questionable, she says: “In my opinion, the Russian legal system is not prepared for such cases.”

Roskomnadsor is still targeting Telegram. The agency is still occasionally trying to prevent access to the messenger servers, but with small, careful steps to avoid a total IP failure like 2018. However, it is not difficult for users to circumvent this block – also thanks to VPN services such as that of Wladislaw Sdolnikow.

This example gives the IT blogger hope that the new Internet law and the associated DPI technology cannot be used effectively – and the Russian Internet is booming again, as was the case in the 1990s. “As soon as power is no longer in the hands of bandits, Russia will be one of the most advanced countries in the field of IT services,” he is sure. After all, Russia has an advantage over China: the market is simply too small. US providers like Google could afford to insist on western principles on the subject of censorship and freedom of expression. A state actor like Roskomnadsor will lose out in a cat and mouse game on the Internet.

After all, there is a mindset among many users on the Russian Internet that is said to have been developed during the repressions in the Soviet Union: Whenever a new rule is passed, think first about how you can circumvent it.

How Ukraine became a testing ground for cyberwar

Ukraine was once a hotspot for petty criminals online. Then the war with Russia came. Today digital warfare is being tested here. And the IT security industry is flourishing.

In Ukraine – here the capital Kiev – the average annual income is below $ 10,000. 
Companies can offer a young hacker $ 5,000 a month for his services. 
( Photo: Jan Vollmer; graphic: iStock / cygnusX)

Artem Afian, a man in his 30s, with a well-groomed beard, brown vest over his shirt and olive-green trousers, sits at a wooden conference table in his office in Kyiv (Kiev), on the sixth floor of an office building. Through large windows, you can look down on the street, over which heavy SUVs with tinted windows thunder: New Toyota Landcruisers, Land Rovers and G-Classes on the holey streets of a country in which the average annual income is below $ 10,000. Behind Artem on the wall hangs a pop art version of the Renaissance painting “The Judgment of the Kambyses“. The picture shows how the corrupt judge Sisamnes is arrested and skinned before the judge’s chair is covered with his skin. “We also sent a copy to the judiciary, but they didn’t want it there,” he says with a grin. He represented operators of file sharing sites like Ex.ua

Afian specialized in IT law in the early 2010s. How his Ukrainian cyber scene is changing is reflected in his cases. In the beginning, private hackers called Artem when the police suddenly came to the door: Odessa cardboards who were caught handling credit card details with other people; Data miners who had looked too deep into foreign data records. He represented operators of file sharing sites like Ex.ua and others.

Five or ten years ago, Ukraine was something of hacking heaven. – IT lawyer Artem Afian

It was paid in Bitcoin for the first time. Artem’s law firm is now also building the legal framework for bug bounty orders: security tests that hackers carry out on behalf of customers. The classic hacker cases are fewer in his office. “Five or ten years ago, Ukraine was something of hacking heaven. But the era of the private hacker is coming to an end. The carders are almost gone. Hacking is now becoming more organized. If a teenager is caught chopping, the police come. And the next day a company that offers him $ 5,000 a month if he starts there.”

The hacker’s lawyer: The Ukrainian Artem Afian specializes in IT law. In the past, data miners and file-sharers were among his clients, but today companies are looking to hire hackers for security tests. (Photo: Jan Vollmer)

Meanwhile, the United States is sending cyber troops to Ukraine

This evolution also has political reasons: In 2014, Ukraine broke away from Russia with the Maidan Revolution; since then the capital no longer wants to be called “Kiev”, but “Kyiv”, in Ukrainian spelling. With emancipation, the country has become a test site for cyber weapons. While Ukraine was still a playground for private hackers in the 2000s and early 2010s, a digital war is raging there now. Meanwhile, the United States is sending cyber troops to Ukraine to learn how digital attacks work and to prepare themselves for them. At least since the attack on the servers of the Democratic Party, which is said to have helped US President Donald Trump to victory, the United States has also been aware of the effects that cyber weapons can have.

It is almost impossible to assign cyber attacks to a state and a command structure. After all, the possibility of denying it has been priced in from the start. In the significant attacks in Ukraine, experts and intelligence officers recognize Russian handwriting.

A worm that cost billions

The highlight so far at the test site in Ukraine was “Notpetya“: an infection that paralyzed an entire country in the summer of 2017 from a hacked server belonging to a small Kiev software company. According to estimates, the worm destroyed the data of ten per cent of all computers in Ukraine and in the meantime paralyzed two airports, 22 banks and several authorities. Notpetya jumped from Ukrainian networks to the corporate networks of companies such as pharmaceutical giant Merck or logistics companies FedEx and Maersk. The US company Merck is said to be Notpetya, according to estimates by the US expert Andy Greenberg Cost $ 870 million. At Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, the worm is said to have torn a $ 300 million hole. Security experts from the White House later estimated the total damage at about ten billion dollars – and accused the Russian secret service GRU. To date, Notpetya is considered the most devastating hack in the world.

The constant threat to Ukrainian IT systems has also made IT security a key issue: a thriving cybersecurity sector has grown out of the classic software outsourcing industry. Hackers and IT security experts are now working for the government and are increasingly attracting international orders.

Allies in the cyberwar: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj in the capital, Kiev. (Photo: TASS / DPA)

Victor Zhora sits in a café called “The Cake” in downtown Kiev and eats cake. He is in his late thirties and is wearing a black turtleneck. Next to our table is a pink, two-meter-high plastic dog sculpture that reminds of the work of US artist Jeff Koons and gives the conversation a somewhat surreal touch.

Zhora has been working in Ukrainian IT security since the 2000s. “15 years ago, something like ‘Cyberwar’ was not an issue,” he says, forking a piece of the carrot cake on the table in front of him. That has changed since Ukraine moved away from Russia politically. In the meantime, he has helped digitally secure eight parliamentary and presidential elections – since 2009 with his own company Infosafe.

“The website was under constant attack.”

In Ukraine, voting is still on paper, making the result of the elections difficult to hack digitally. But in a country that has had two revolutions since 2004, ambiguities on election night can lead to heated feelings. “There was a lot of traffic on the election commission’s website on election night and the next day,” says Zhora. “The website was attacked continuously. We then tried to maintain it by all means – from web mirroring to DDoS defense. “

Zhora experienced the most intense attacks on May 25, 2014. “At the time, our big neighbour decided to prove to the rest of the world that we had chosen a junta in Kiev,” he says. Junta is the term used mainly by Russian media in 2014 to discredit the then Ukrainian administration. “There were three phases to the attack,” says Zhora. Even before the election, hackers with targeted phishing attacks had invaded the election commission’s computer system unnoticed. Just hours before the first projections were published on the election commission’s website, he and his colleagues got a tip. Someone had noticed that before the early projections, a picture of a supposed election winner had been uploaded to the page and could therefore be published at any time.

In May 2014, volunteers counted the ballot papers in the presidential election. During the election night, the website of the election commission was permanently attacked. It has been the most intense hacker attack in Ukrainian history. (Photo: Shutterstock / snig)

A picture of Yarosh as the election winner on the official website of the election commission would have had catastrophic consequences for Ukraine: Russian media, which also had a broad audience in Ukraine, would have given her junta thesis a new boost. The news of Yarosh as the winner would have brought both the paramilitaries of the “Prawyj sector” and the stunned supporters of the other parties onto the streets in a short time: the chaos that would have put the whole election in question.

“Our big neighbour decided to prove to the rest of the world that we had chosen a junta in Kiev.”

“When we saw the picture, we knew that the system had been compromised,” says Zhora. It would have taken too long to check the system entirely and to kick the attacker out with certainty. “So we started to replace all the nodes and the website completely,” he says. The new website went online shortly before the first projections. “The only call to the old link to the page where Jarosch’s picture would have been coming from the IP address of a Russian television station,” says Zhora with a meaningful look. The hack on the website of the Ukrainian election commission was something like the starting signal for the significant political cyberattacks on Ukraine.

On December 23, 2015, the light suddenly went out for 230,000 residents in the western Ukrainian region of Ivano-Frankivsk in the early evening. In a highly complex operation, hackers had taken control of a power grid for the first time worldwide. And they were well prepared. In spring 2015, they started using a word exploit sent by email called “Blackenergy3” to infect the computers of employees of electricity suppliers in western Ukraine.

The hackers have spent months bypassing electricity supplier firewalls and familiarizing themselves with industrial computers and their functions. Until it happened on December 23, 2015 – and they turned the lever at three distribution centres and 30 sub-centres and cut off the electricity. As a freestyle, the hackers paralyzed the emergency generators of the three attacked distribution centres during the attack so that even the already confused employees of the municipal utility company were left in the dark.

The Blackenergy hack followed about a year later, in December 2016, the hack on the Kiev electricity provider “Kyivenergo”. “The lights went out in the north of Kiev. The malware that was used was specially written for Kyivenergo’s industrial control systems,” says Zhora. “If you have something that works in such a system, you can try it out here and use it elsewhere.”

Yegor Aushev and Evgenia Broshevan (from left) are the bosses of the Hacken Proof platform, which provides the services of around 3,000 hackers to companies. Vasyl Zadvorny (r.) Is CEO of the Prozorro e-procurement platform. (Photo: Yegor Aushev)

But not only the attackers are practising in Ukraine. Since the hacking on the elections and energy systems, the United States has been sending not only defence equipment and support – but also cyberspace units that study the attacks themselves to prepare the United States for them. “Our solution for the Blackenergy hack was to start the Storm in the distribution centres again manually. In the United States, that would no longer be possible, because the electricity grid is completely digitally controlled there,” says Zhora.

“The United States can observe how systems are attacked in Ukraine, and thus study the tactics of the attackers.”

“It is likely that the hackers wanted to see if the malware worked the way it was supposed to. And also how the international community would react to it,” Marie Baezner explains to me in a Skype call. Baezner conducts research at the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on the role of cyber attacks in conflicts such as the wars in Syria or Ukraine. In one of her scientific articles, she counts 64 attacks and counter-attacks in the Ukraine conflict between November 2013 and December 2016. “Ukraine has a strategic value for the USA. The United States can see in Ukraine how the systems were attacked, what malware was used, and study the tactics of the attackers. It was helpful to see this before the 2018 midterm election. They will do the same before the 2020 elections and send cyber troops to Ukraine, Macedonia and Montenegro.”

In a networked world, cyberattacks on states don’t stay where they started. A small Ukrainian software company called “Linkos Group” works just a few kilometres from the café “The Cake”, where I meet Victor Zhora. Linkos sells a concealed accounting program called MEDoc, mainly to Ukrainian customers. In June 2017, hackers used one of the Linkos servers to release the worm, which later became known as “Notpetya”.

The hacker attacks on Ukraine, which security expert Zhora calls “a cold shower”, also had a vitalizing effect on the Ukrainian hacker scene. In the west of Kiev, in a café in an IT hub called “Unit City”, I meet Yegor Aushev and his business partner Evgenia Broshevan. Both wear hoodies, Aushev in black, Broshevan in red. With money from an early crypto-ICO, the two built a platform called “Hack Proof”. Companies can register for a penetration test on the platform: a “hackability test”. One of the approximately 3,000 legal hackers registered on the site then searches for weaknesses in the respective company – and logs what it finds.

The changing history of Ukraine from the former hotspot for small cybercriminals to the burned child of cyberwar has got the business going. “It took a long time to convince people to hire a Ukrainian cybersecurity company for the first time. On the other hand, Ukraine is now known for its hacks and hackers,” explains Aushev. An Asian airline is a customer he is particularly proud of. There are no official numbers, but Hacken-Proof founder Aushev estimates that there are around 30 cybersecurity companies in Ukraine. In doing so, he discovered the increasing demand for security specialists as a separate business area – and added IT security courses to his company’s portfolio. Not least because of hacks like Blackeenergy and Notpetya, the security industry is booming like never before.

Make online texts easy to read

If readers do not so well receive articles and blog posts, it does not have to do with the content alone: ​​many websites neglect the reader-friendly design of their jobs. Sometimes internal constraints play a role. Sometimes awareness is simply not there.

“”Web design is 95% typography”” – Oliver Reichenstein, Information Architects ( source )

Why is that important?

And that’s important because readers are almost always on the go in some form online. Either you don’t have time to read the post. You may have spotted him on the social web by accident while doing something else. Or they are sceptical at first whether the effort is worthwhile at all.

Also, the next distraction is just a click away. Sometimes it doesn’t even make a click when a new notification comes in, or the colleague wants something. Already the attention is gone.

In this respect, you fight for the attention of your readers with every sentence, with every paragraph, with every text element. If this does not work, then they have called your contribution, which means you can credit a page view. But these users may not subscribe to the newsletter, download a white paper or recommend your post on the social web as hoped.

In the following, we will now look at how you can ensure that your content is happy to be read and that it is more successful all-round just using a reader-friendly design.

This contribution is the third part of an unofficial series. 

Enough the preface:

Point 1: improve legibility

contrast

One reason why texts can sometimes be difficult to read is the lack of difference between the writing and the background. In return, however, this should not tempt you to bet on a full black and a pure white. Then that’s too much of a good thing. Accordingly, many pages rely on a dark grey font and sometimes on a very light grey background. That reads well and also looks elegant. If you want to know more, you can read a W3C document here.

Please note with these and other tips: Not everyone sees your website as you do. Your users have different devices, different displays. And the differences can often be enormous here. So always plan a specific scope for this.

Font size, line spacing, line length, sentence

If your designer has done everything correctly, the font size should be individually adjustable by the user and aligned on the screen. Therefore, the standard size of the font should be chosen so that most people immediately find it pleasant. Sixteen pixels are often used as the starting point.

The line spacing, in turn, largely determines how easily the eye can find the next line when reading. If it is too tight, it can easily slip and then become irritated. Also, the text then looks like the famous lead desert, and some may get out before your article even gets a chance. If the distance is too far, it is also unconsciously tedious and simply does not look good. 

As a rule of thumb, the line spacing = font size x 1.5. You have found a good measure for the body text. However, this value can also vary depending on the font! It will usually be between 1.2x and 1.8x. Another rule of thumb for this: put an “E” on top of another if it fits in the space between the line above it.

Different rules apply to paragraphs, sub-headings and other elements: Ideally, they should be given more freedom to support the visual structure of the text. At the same time, make sure that the context is still clear: a subheading should usually identify the next section of document. Accordingly, it should be a little closer to the following text and keep a little more distance upwards.

Another frequently mentioned adjustment screw is the line length. Björn Rohles writes in his standard work “Basic Course Good Web Design” (affiliate link):

If the line lengths are too short, as is often found in tabloids, our eyes continuously jump back and forth – there is no reading pause. An optimal line contains between 50 and 80 characters. A good rule of thumb is to start with about ten words per line. In lines that are too long, the eye quickly loses its grip when reading, and the reading experience becomes worse.

It should also be borne in mind that the line length also adjusts depending on the screen size of the device.

In the “sentence” of the text, the “left-aligned fluttering sentence” is usually selected digitally. In other words, the lines on the left all start in the same place, but the right side is uneven. The “justification” is often used in letterpress printing and in general in print. Both the left and right edges are even. That looks nicer but can cause problems online. Because especially when long words are not automatically separated, significant gaps between the words arise instead. These holes not only look ugly but also make reading difficult. 

This problem applies especially to German-language texts with their sometimes extra-long words …

font

Another important choice is the font. Nowadays you can find a large number of free fonts that you can embed and use on your website. That can give your side a distinctive face. However, you can also go wrong very quickly here.

Because fonts are often intended for specific fields of application, some are suitable for posters and headings. Others for running texts. Still others for footnotes. Some are optimized for paper printing, others for the screen. And all of these differences have very concrete effects. 

Attention: If there is talk of a “display font”, this does not mean a monitor. These are fonts or font variants for broad headings and posters!

Typefaces with “serifs” are often used in traditional letterpress printing. Then the letters have small decorative elements at the end of the lines, which are also intended to increase legibility. We here at SwaCash use such a serif font because we like the classic look and we want to remind us of printed magazines and books visually.

However, sans-serif fonts are used on the web, since they are often displayed better on monitors. The small serifs were often blurry, at least in the past, because the displays were so blurred. That has changed in the meantime, and the resolutions are getting higher and with it, the picture ever sharper.

It is generally recommended not to use more than three fonts at a time. And these should also be coordinated. Otherwise, this alone makes your site look unprofessional and restless. Björn Rohles (“Basic course on good web design”), already cited above, considers two to be sufficient and advises: “You can create variety through different variants of a font, for example, italic or bold font styles.”

On the web, there is another reason to limit the number of fonts: they have to be loaded first. If this happens from an external source, this can extend the loading time of your page. And here, as is well known, every (micro) second count. In other cases, the page may already be displayed, but the fonts are not yet loaded. Instead, one of the standard fonts is used.

Without going too deep into the topic of loading times: not only the number of fonts but also the number of variants of the same font have a definite impact.

By the way, skewed fonts look good depending on the type, if they are designed as “italic”. Long texts are often difficult to read. We use this, for example, for the book in our info boxes to make them stand out even more clearly from the rest of the article. Since the documents in these boxes are usually only short, the slanted font is generally excellent. However, there are always borderline cases.

Text elements

Readability also means that different text elements are recognizable, and the relationship to one another is evident. Specifically, this applies to the heading and the subheadings, for example. 

The size of the headline should stand out clearly. The intermediate lines, in turn, serve to structure the text. Accordingly, they should still be significantly more significant than the version, but also visibly smaller than the main heading. 

Remember that the “weight” of the font also plays a role in how important we perceive it: A bold subheading catches the eye much faster than one in a slim (light) font style. Use both means to make the hierarchy of subheading sizes clear to each other. For example, the difference between the h2 and the h3 can be primarily the font-weight, while the h4 is then significantly smaller.

A special feature of our site is that we highlight the first paragraph with a larger font. We use this beginning as something known in journalists as “”lead””, “”scriber”” or “”leader””. This is also an element that we adopt from printed magazines. This paragraph gives you an overview of the topic of the article and should ideally make you curious. As it can be read separately from the rest of the text, it is emphasized by the font size and also separated by the article image. 

I describe below that this article image can also be a bad idea.

Accessibility

When making your decisions, you should also consider the barrier-free design of your text. For example, users should be able to adjust the font size themselves, because this is important for people with visual impairments. High contrast also helps. 

Also, do not rely too much on colour effects in order not to disadvantage colour-blind people. For example, it has become common practice to no longer underline link texts. It looks more beautiful, but at the same time, the links are not always quickly recognizable. 

You should only be aware of the effects of such decisions at all times. And of course, the topic of accessibility is much bigger, but it would go beyond the scope of this article.

Point 2: Avoid distractions

As mentioned at the beginning: For most readers, a brief irritation is enough to tear them out of the text. Therefore, you should avoid distractions and disturbances as far as possible.

Sidebars

As you can see to the left and right of this text on the website, you see nothing. We deliberately do without sidebars. A few years ago we had a column on the right, which, for example, drew attention to our social media channels, as well as the newsletter, the new edition, the latest posts, latest comments and, and, and …

Many users have now gotten used to ignoring these sidebars. They have learned over time that they have nothing to do with the content of the article. In this respect, you can only warn against placing important information such as navigation there!

This ignoring, however, requires a specific mental effort, which is lost when reading the text. This has increased the likelihood that the person will jump off. Also, something interesting may be discovered with a quick look in the sidebar – the user has already clicked away. But was that your goal?

Of course, we are in a luxurious and rare position that we can view the satisfaction of our readers as the most important goal. We don’t need the sidebar, for example, to place advertising there, because we earn our money primarily through our subscription.

But we also have foregone something: After we removed our right column with the redesign, the number of clicks per visit initially fell significantly. We experiment with balancing with other elements, e.g. under the articles. And in general, we have a very long-term view of this website. We accept disadvantages in the short and medium-term.

Animations and advertising

Another problem is rooted in one of the oldest parts of our brain: we humans are conditioned to recognize movements and to react to them. And right out of the corner of your eye! While this was useful in the past to discover the sabre-toothed tiger creeping up on us, today we see one thing above all on the web: advertising.

Perhaps you have already experienced that you wanted to read an article. Still, this one blinking, twitching, animated element somewhere else on the page (or even in the middle of the text!) Made this almost impossible for you. I had to cover such ads by hand …

Of course, your site may not survive without such annoying ads. In return, you should not be surprised if the number of ad blocker users increases as well as the bounce rate.

And at this point, we certainly don’t need to say anything about automatically playing and clearing videos. So far, it should be clear that they are a plague. Some browsers now deactivate them by default.

Another fashion phenomenon is small notes that are flown into the browser window at the bottom when we near the end of the text. It is more critical to the website operator that we click there than that we read the article to the end. Because our concentration is naturally disturbed and the reading flow is interrupted.

But it doesn’t have to move at all to bother us and tear down the reading experience: full-surface advertising formats can be found even on high-quality pages. The entire background of a post is misused as an advertising space. Screaming colours, urgent calls for action, pretty faces: all this may help your advertisers, but not your article.

Overlays

Another bad habit of the web is elements that overlay the text. Sometimes they do the same thing when you go to the page. Others are nastier: they wait until you start reading to push yourself to the fore. 

Because a simple overlay window is not bad enough, some pages hide the entire post! At that moment, you are not only out of context, but it also is often not clear what happened at all. Did you accidentally click a link? Have you landed on a scam site that wants to put malware on you? Is the browser broken? 

And because these site operators are only concerned with their success figures and not with the users of their site, “dark patterns” are also used in the design. In essence, it is deliberately obscured how to get rid of the overlay without performing the desired action. The “X” for closing is then placed as small and inconspicuous as possible outside the field of vision. Or you have to click on a passive-aggressive link à la: “No thanks, I don’t want to be more successful than my competition”.

Do these overlays and dark patterns “work” in design? Definitely. They even use great role models like Amazon on their website. Are they easy to read? Are you positioning yourself as a high-quality provider? Is your reputation increasing among readers? Certainly not.

Point 3: optimize the reading flow

But even if you have a perfectly readable layout and altogether avoid distractions, the danger is not yet averted. Other elements belong to every text and can lead to a jump.

Photos and illustrations

One can undoubtedly accuse the SwaCash blog that it is sometimes too dull and very text-heavy. Just look at this post! But that is undoubtedly true: because every picture, every illustration can pull a reader out of the context of the text. In this respect, we entirely dispense with decorative prints that have no relevance in terms of content. The only exception here is the supporting article image.

In general, it is also recommended not to interrupt the text with pictures. How we handle it at the beginning of a post, for example, is therefore wrong. We do this for other reasons anyway: First, we want to optically separate the “marker” from the rest of the text. On the other hand, we want to give an excellent first impression. 

Some pages go so far with the first impression that you only see the article image and the heading and have to scroll down for the actual text. It can look beautiful if you have lovely pictures. However, this can irritate and discourage users. If you then have a conspicuous advertisement above this element, the whole thing often turns into a search game: Where is the article that I wanted to call …?

If we have images in the text at SwaCash, they are often column-wide. However, we make sure that the pictures are placed where they make sense. Ideally, the writing itself leads over to the photo or illustration. This makes this element part of the total contribution and is not a foreign body that interrupts the flow of reading.

Nevertheless, I don’t want to hide the fact that the first impression of an article is often essential. And if you then see a lot of text and hardly any pictures, this will put some readers off. In this respect, we certainly lose potential because we are very minimalistic here.

On the other hand, our posts are read differently than others. For example, our subscribers can download the issues in three e-book formats and then read them on a device of their choice. We also assume that our articles are stored in services such as Pocket so that they can be read later in peace. Anyway, you rarely read 2,000 words or more between two clicks.

Text design

At this point I have bad news for you: very few users read your texts word for word like a novel. That may hurt your pride now. But you should still consider that. By the way, many people don’t even read books like novels and skip boring or seemingly irrelevant sections …

And this affects even more users than you might think: Because with longer contributions, many have made it a habit to skim through the “complete work” in advance. This first, fleeting impression is used to decide whether the effort is worth it. 

To do this, scan the text for exciting elements: 

  • Subheadings, 
  • Captions, 
  • Text highlighting, 
  • the first few words of the paragraphs 
  • and the links. 

They should all convey the content of the article as well as the material itself – in a condensed form for hurried readers. They should also encourage everyone to step into the text. This can be in place, or maybe it is so convincing that the person scrolls up and starts at the beginning.

Of course, it is not.

So make sure that sub-headings reveal something about what it is. Remember, at the same time that an intermediate line is not part of the body text. They serve as an orientation but are not necessarily read along. Unclear headings that only become apparent after reading the book can be exciting. It depends on your readership and what you want to convey. With a guidebook contribution, you should see it more like an outline and not as an element of your artistic-intellectual self-realization.

Paragraphs in turn also serve to structure the content. You take a mental break when a new article comes. And, as mentioned, it also serves as a potential entry point.

Since the attention span is supposedly so short nowadays, some go over to dividing each sentence into its paragraph. This may be very interesting as a stylistic device from time to time. And there are certainly text forms, topics and target groups where this works well. In general, I think that’s far too extreme.

A related form is a list – ordered with numbers or unordered with neutral list items. They serve, for example, to explain several points in an orderly manner. They can also contain work steps. Or you can use it to describe and compare terms. 

Lists are also very noticeable and are taken into account when skimming over the text. They are mostly indented and have some space up and down to differentiate themselves from the rest of the document.

It is highlighting remains. For example, the word “emphasis” in the previous sentence is “bold” so that it is also noticeable when it is scanned. And it also signals to you as a reader that a new topic is following. 

Another highlight is slanted, which is usually used for emphasis. Some use it to identify technical terms or foreign words. 

Ideally, orient yourself on how other media in your area handle this. 

Underlining is instead not a highlight, because it is still associated with “link”, even if that hardly happens today.

Left

Speaking of links: they are a fundamental element of the WWW. They provide additional information, link content and are very important for both users and search engines.

At the same time, you have to be aware that every link is a potential-jump point. As soon as a link appears, the reader must decide at the moment whether it should be clicked or not. Among other things, it must be clear what is actually behind the link: where do I land after the click and what do I find there? 

Only then can you decide whether the click is worthwhile now, whether you will return to it later or whether you will ignore the link altogether. This decision takes place in a split second. But of course, it distracts us from reading. It interrupts our reading flow. And that can lead to losing the personal context of the text that you have just read – and possibly taking this moment as an opportunity to close the browser window. Or you click on the link and completely forget what you wanted to read …

There is the bad habit of linking individual words on the net without the meaning or purpose of the link becoming clear. Sometimes it happens out of ignorance. Sometimes the authors find it funny or smart – because after the click you (hopefully) understand what it meant.

It can be exciting and entertaining, or it can be downright confusing and annoying. I generally prefer clarity wherever possible. But that also depends on the style of the page and the target audience.

Also keep in mind that as already mentioned, many users only skim your articles! Words that are linked individually catch your eye, but do not give you any help regarding the content.

Here at SwaCash, we try to make all links as possible to “speaking links”: Even if you look only briefly, the purpose and purpose of the link should be clear. It doesn’t always work. But that’s our goal.

Infoboxes

In specialist books, you will often find boxes in the text or next to the text that gives tips, explain terms or keep an anecdote ready. This loosens up the version and provides exciting scraps of information when browsing quickly.

However, books have it a little easier than online texts: We usually buy them consciously and also consciously pick them up. Perhaps we only discovered an article on the web by accident. In this respect, what is mentioned here comes into play again: Such information boxes can cause readers to jump off.

In this respect, you individually decide which information you want to convey in this way. They should not be necessary to understand the body text. Also, these boxes should be designed so that their character is evident. At that moment, the reader can quickly decide whether to pay attention to the table or ignore it and skip it.

We use such boxes, for example, to draw attention to our newsletter. For us, this is a compromise: we know that we are interrupting the flow of reading. Perhaps some will even think that the contribution has already ended. We take this risk because it is essential for us to win a readership for our Monday newsletter.

At the same time, the newsletter is not essential enough to annoy our users with an overlay.

Final word

As mentioned at the beginning, we at SwaCash are in a particular situation in many ways. We don’t have many constraints that have other sides. In this way, we deliberately do without classic online advertising. This gives us a lot of freedom in the design of the page, and at the same time, it reduces the number of distractions enormously.

Of course, others are different. Since money has to come in through advertising, or everyone in the company would like to place their offers in the sidebar, which seems indispensable.

There is a compromise to be found. And as mentioned in this post: We are not free from it either. It should only be clear to everyone involved that many additional elements have a price. And that is paid for by the contribution on the page.

With Big Data against Corona: Less data protection for more disease protection?

The corona crisis also becomes a touchstone for protecting privacy. In several countries, health authorities use smartphone data to create movement profiles of the population and to trace infection chains.

The corona crisis is gaining momentum and drama every day. French President Emmanuel Macron spoke martially of “war” in his speech to the nation. China’s head of state Xi Jinping stylized epidemic control as a “people’s war.” Every means and every weapon seems right in the fight against the coronavirus. And that includes big data in the 21st century.

The crisis team of the Austrian government wants to use cell phone data to check whether exit restrictions are being met and social contacts are being reduced.

After it became known that numerous tourists in the Tyrolean ski resort of Ischgl had been infected with COVID-19 and the virus had spread to Iceland, Austria’s largest mobile phone provider A1 began to transmit movement profiles of its mobile phone users to the government on its initiative . The task of the crisis team is to check whether exit restrictions are observed and social contacts are reduced.

Deutsche Telekom also provides the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) with anonymized cell phone data that allows scientists to model movement flows. The physicist Dirk Brockmann, who heads the “Epidemiological Modeling of Infectious Diseases” project at the RKI, had already developed a mathematical model a few weeks ago that can be used to simulate the import risk of the virus using flight connections. However, these models are not very meaningful on a national scale, especially since air traffic has already come to a standstill. Therefore, authorities focus on smartphone data, based on which more precise movement patterns can be created.

In the United States, tech giants Google and Facebook arouse desires with their immense data collections.

Israel goes one step further. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has authorized intelligence agencies to collect cell phone data from tracing people who may have been in contact with infected people. The Israeli security company NSO Group, known for its spy software, has developed a tracking technology that creates detailed movement profiles of mobile phone users, according to a report by “Bloomberg.” According to the report, the program links cellular data with location data to find out where an infected person has been for more than 15 minutes.

In the United States, tech giants Google and Facebook arouse desires with their immense data collections. The U.S. government is currently working with the two companies to explore ways in which location data could be used to contain the epidemic.

The evaluation of cell phone data for disease control naturally raises questions about data protection. Is it legitimate to monitor citizens more closely in the fight against an epidemic? Does the end justify the means? Is data protection a deadly information barrier in the fight against the virus? Hamburg-based sociologist Nils Zurawski fears that the state of emergency could be used to establish further surveillance measures: “There is always something to monitor. And when relationships between people and diseases become visible, this surveillance penetrates areas that could previously only be guessed at. Do we want that? No. But can we defend ourselves if it makes sense? I also fear: No. » It is clear that “surveillance, illness, stigmatization, security and social relationships mix and are brought together to form a conglomerate that is not unique, but has so far been neglected in this dimension,” said the sociologist.

Would you take away the ventilator from a young man whose cell phone was found at an après-ski party in Ischgl?

Monitoring and personal data obtained from it can lead to ethical dilemmas. For example, based on medical triage data, where doctors have to decide which patient should receive priority treatment. Are patients who share their data more urgent because they behave cooperatively? Would an infected person who was in a risk area despite the fact that official warnings be disadvantaged in the intensive care unit? Would you take away the ventilator from a young man whose cell phone was found at an après-ski party in Ischgl? These may be hypothetical scenarios. However, the more data available, the higher the risk that people will be discriminated against based on certain characteristics (for example, “South Tyrolean returnees”). Especially,

In the collectively organized and epidemic-tested societies of Asia, such data protection concerns count less than in Europe. For example, the Chinese authorities have tracked millions of smartphones to create detailed movement profiles of citizens and trace infection chains. Who is currently from an infection area? Who was recently in contact with an already infected person? To this end, telecommunications providers such as China Unicom and China Telecom have shared location data from government mobile phone users. Not least, thanks to smartphone tracking, the epidemic in the Middle Kingdom could be contained. According to the authorities, there are no longer any local infections.

In Taiwan, people at risk are then electronically monitored using their cell phones.

Taiwan, which has three times as many inhabitants as Switzerland, but has 40 times fewer infected people (67 instead of over 3,000), relies on big data to fight the coronavirus. At the end of January, the state health insurance and immigration authorities pooled their databases. By linking health and exercise data, the police were able to identify citizens with a high risk of infection or infection. These people at risk are then monitored electronically using their mobile phones.

In South Korea, which is severely affected by the epidemic, health authorities are sending emotionalized text messages on cell phones to raise awareness. For example: “A woman in her sixties has just been tested positive.” The government keeps a precise record of its citizens’ movements – detailed travel patterns are created using anonymized GPS data, credit card histories, images from surveillance cameras, and patient surveys. On a live map, citizens can see where infected patients are currently. The Ministry of the Interior and Security has also developed an app that uses GPS tracking to check whether citizens comply with the requirements of home quarantine – or leave the house without authorization.

At Swisscom, data transmission to the health authorities is currently not planned.

Significant data-based population control in Asia (keyword “contact tracing”) is now also considered a successful model in the West. And with each passing day, with every infected person, the pressure to use these tracking methods in their own country is growing. In Switzerland smartphone tracking is currently not an issue. On request, Swisscom informs that it “does not create individual movement profiles for customers”. “According to the Telecommunications Act, fully anonymized location data or information obtained from this data may also be processed without the consent of customers,” a spokesman said on request. However, data transmission to the health authorities is currently not planned. At the same time, the company signals willingness to cooperate: “If the authorities request cooperation with Swisscom to combat the corona pandemic in the area of ​​the analysis of movement data, Swisscom will examine the request and support the authorities within the applicable legal framework.”

The Swiss cultural and media scientist Felix Stalder, who has been researching social change processes through digitization for years, believes that data evaluation is legitimate under the following conditions:

  • The data must be anonymized. (This means it’s about population analysis, not individual monitoring.)
  • The data must be deleted after use.
  • The evaluation must be limited to questions determined by an external team. (No fishing just because you have the data right now.)
  • Issues and evaluation methods must be published after completion.
  • The data must be submitted to at least two independent analysis teams to be able to make comparisons as to whether the evaluations were correct at all.

The analysis of smartphone data may be a tried and tested means of creating mobility patterns and thus containing an epidemic. However, it should be limited to the crisis because it not only limits privacy but can also stigmatize people. The state of emergency is always a breach of the dam because it legitimizes restrictions on freedom that will not be withdrawn after the crisis has been lifted – such as security laws in the United States after September 11th. Anyone who releases data now should keep an eye on the consequences after the crisis.