Brett's Ramblings

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5 minutes reading time (1005 words)

Our World is Going to Turn Upside Down with DeepFakes

The short story

Any person and their voice, in practically any video (past, present, or future) can have their face and voice digitally replaced with any other person face and voice. This is known as a “DeepFake” video.  Credibility of videos will no longer exist without some form of analysis, but the assumption that a DeepFake video is credible will create enough damage before being proven to be fake. The technology is not perfect (yet), but does it have to be in order to induce the intended effect?

The longer version

It is difficult to find which aspect of our lives will be more in harm’s way because of DeepFake videos. With children, cyberbullying will take on an entire new life by an exponential factor.  DeepFake cyberbullying will be the nuclear bomb of child’s bullying nightmare.  The cruelness of bullies with access to make their victims appear to do anything in a video that can be instantly spread across the planet in seconds is not something to ignore.

The direction of a nation-state’s actions can potentially be moved with video evidence that was completely manufactured.

The movie industry can profit from DeepFakes by hiring B-list actors and replacing their face with A-lister faces but I don’t see an upside for the actors…

Innocent people can be made to look guilty of a crime. Today, your face can digitally replace the face of a violent criminal who was video recorded while committing the most horrid of acts, and people will believe the video..with your face on the criminal.  Criminal charges (vigilantism is a possibility!) might be filed, an arrest made, and your reputation ruined long before the video is determined to be fake.

Photoshop (and its competitors) changed the way we look at photos. Forensically, it is not entirely impossible to exam manipulated photos to find inconsistencies based on the content or layers of an image. Still, photoshopped photos are still intentionally created to damage a reputation. I’m referring to the manipulation of a photo using any photo-editing software, not just Photoshop.

But videos…this is an entirely new world of potential damage to a person’s reputation, or worse!

Stand by for a new world of fraud and information warfare campaigns.

Your online photos

The free Internet services that we have been graciously offered over the past years, in which we blissfully post photos and videos of ourselves, family and friends, is ripe for abuse. Our Internet service providers have already abused our data, selling it haphazardly to every bidder (not just the highest bidder, but practically everyone willing to pay for it). Since data can be duplicated forever, we can be abused forever as soon as we have given our data the first time to any online company.

With that, our pictures are online. We have posted the pictures of our children. Our online resumes, ie Linkedin, have a super clean portrait which is perfect for the source of a DeepFake video (all the machine learning software needs is one picture of your face…). Everyone is at risk. We already created the source material for abuse. And we did it with a smile.

My (online) photos

Working a decade in undercover narcotics turned me into an ultra-paranoid-of-cameras person. At two points in my patrol career, photos of me in uniform were posted online by my department and local news. Then I went undercover.  Always worried about someone finding those two photos of me online at the worst possible time, I avoided cameras ever since.

Even during those years, if anyone (friend or family) ever pointed a camera at me, it was like I was ducking a baseball being thrown at me.  I did the same thing working undercover to make sure my photo wasn’t part of evidence in a case that may go public. Even with that, a family member of mine kept posting my photos online, without my knowledge, even while he knew the type of work that I was doing. Good grief. Third party control of our data is never good. Never ever.

The solution

I hate to say it, but lawyers are the only solution. They also stand to be the only people that will make out like bandits in the DeepFake future with litigation. Litigation, including criminal prosecution is the only remedy for damage and hope for prevention.

Actors will need tighter contracts to protect their image and voice, otherwise Tom Cruise will be starring in new release movies well into the next century…

Victims of cyberbullying, whether it be children or adults, will have to sue for damages, but as we all know, that which goes online tends to stay online forever.

Third party curators of our data need to be held legally responsible for something or anything. If our data is being controlled by others, without any compensation other than a free email address or data storage, then this problem will only grow.

Pandora’s box is opened and the DeepFake video is here to stay. I wonder how many Pandora’s boxes exist, because it seems that every year or so, another Pandora’s box is opened and something else pops out that does 1% good and 99% bad. I’m still looking for that 1% good that DeepFakes might provide, but I’m not holding my breath.

The future

Like anything on the Internet, it is all fun and games until someone loses a job, gets sued, gets beat up or killed, or commits suicide because of doxing, harassment, and cyberbullying.

As for me, I prefer to work on things that do good.  That's why I wrote this; to remind you that this 'thing' we do, this thing we call DFIR, is for doing good.



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