In 2017 a group of scientists from the University of Washington created a video of President Obama stating the progress of investigation against a mass murderer. The audio was based on an actual speech given by President Obama. The results of the said video were shocking and the same video has over a million views on YouTube.It had perfectly lip-synced the video of the president with the pre-fed audio file.
The technology, behind the said video, is based on the Artificial neural networks which were trained for hours through the weekly address footage of President Obama. The neural network then mapped the raw audio features to the mouth shapes. Since the mouth structure changed shapes quite frequently, high-quality textures with 3d matching were created to present photorealistic results.
The sensational nature of the video begs us to ask the question about the consequences of the development of such technology. Any criminal with enough expertise and with decent computing power can create something like this, which could potentially harm many individuals. These videos, images or audio files based on such cutting technologies of Artificial Technology and Machine learning are known as deep fakes.
While people are becoming more and more aware of what they consume online, one can never be too careful from the attack of a professional cybercriminal, for whom ‘Internet’ is just a playground. In September 2019, a ‘voice deepfake’ was used to scam an Energy Company of $243,000. As per the report published by The Wall Street Journal and Forbes magazine, the criminal called up the CEO of and Energy Company posing as his boss who was the Chief executive of the said company’s parent company. The criminal directed the said executive to transfer the funds to the bank account of a Hungarian Supplier and called up post the transfer to ask for follow-ups as well.
In 2020 another case came in to light where an activist couple was accused of being a “terrorist sympathiser” by an individual who is supposedly a ‘deepfake’. This individual is a freelance writer and British university student, and the blogs which he authors depict an active interest in anti-Semitism and Jewish affairs. The article written in a U.S. Jewish newspaper drew only a minimum engagement. However, the investigation on the identity and the profile picture provided by the author, which revealed some clear signs of it being a deepfake, only points to the glaring fact of the presence of criminals spreading propaganda and lies, which is harmful to the larger society.
An insight on the extent of such technology with such a sensational nature and deep effect was merely witnessed when a Video of Party president of Delhi BJP, Mr Manoj Tiwary went Viral on WhatsApp, where he is seen to make a dig on their Contenders.
The above-stated examples depict that in the present day and age when we are constantly surrounded by such cutting edge technologies with capabilities to potentially change our lives and our thinking, we should be careful of the other side of technology as well. Following independent or government fact-checking agencies, confirming the news from multiple sources and not believing in everything one reads on the internet, surely goes a long way in helping one to frame their opinion and constructively contribute towards cyberspace.
Author – Mr. Hrishikesh Bedi, Consultant, CyberPeace Foundation