In the next part of our series on cybersecurity, we look at the phenomenon that takes the term ‘fake news’ to a whole new level and has taken the internet by storm, for better or for worse…
In recent years, deepfakes have gone viral as content creators use advanced editing skills to poke fun at famous faces by syncing their lips to alternative narration, to varying levels of convincingness. Even the UK Government has utilised the technology to resurrect Albert Einstein’s face to deliver a public advertising campaign (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukQljlpe6A8) about the importance of smart energy meters.
Deepfakes relies on a machine learning system called the Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), which consists of a generator that syncs the new audio to the visual and processes the content through a discriminator until it cannot detect differences between original and doctored versions. Artificial Intelligence helps edit the video by researching common facial movements that it can replicate. Developments in AI mean that the videos are increasingly realistic, if rather unsettling.
The possibilities created are limitless, but this ultimately results in some dangerous activity. A famous example spread around the internet is of a British executive receiving a phone call from the German CEO of his company, requesting that he transfer €220,000 to a Hungarian supplier. Since he recognised his boss’s voice, he did what was asked of him, not realising that it was an AI-generated deepfake impersonating the CEO after based off online audio footage found collected by a hacker. This stunt had significant financial implications for the business and is indicative of the issues created by this technological innovation.
All manner of problems sprawl from the malicious use of deepfakes, but perhaps the most controversial examples of senior businesspeople or politicians are portrayed in a damaging light, which could bring disgrace upon their employers (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vm_rjs9fyQk) if they go viral. Social media platforms have been tasked with deleting such content, but the human moderators often cannot detect the difference between what is and isn’t real, given the ever-improving quality produced by AI.
Instead, cybersecurity tech is needed to combat this threat. However, in many respects, there is an AI arms race between cybercriminals and cybersecurity developers as the technology continues to reach new heights. NWT remains ahead of the curve in monitoring how we can use these tools for good and work with our partners to provide the best protection against deepfakes.
Here are some simple steps that companies can take to protect their workers:
One useful step is the publishing of a specification for digital content outlined by major media groups including Microsoft and the BBC to ensure that their output cannot be tampered with. US lawmakers are beginning to respond to calls for action by passing bills that crack down on deepfakes on social media, but until these changes are realised, we can offer more advice on how to stay alert against deepfakes and other similarly harmful content online.
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