November 17, 2020
Deepfakes and Cyber Security

How do you know that what you’re seeing, or hearing, is real?

Deepfakes and synthetic media are changing the cybersecurity landscape. Deepfakes improve fake digital identities by enhancing traditional cyber threats and enabling new attacks which are designed to harass, intimidate, demean, undermine and destabilise. Thus, perhaps the most detrimental impact of deepfakes is that they are forging a zero-trust society where people cannot, or no longer bother to, distinguish truth from false-hood.  

What is a deepfake?

Deepfakes use a form of artificial intelligence called deep learning to make images of fake events – hence the name ‘deepfake’. This century’s answer to photoshopping, deepfake technology enables you to manipulate video, photo and audio to exploit audiences and create an alternate version of the truth.  

According to a report published in 2019 by AI firm Sensity, there were a total of 14,678 deepfakes detected online. As of June 2020, this number had increased by 330%, with Sensity finding a total of 49,081 deepfakes online.


Why are deepfakes dangerous?

A vast amount of fear around deepfakes concerns politics, and rightfully so. However, with the continued threat of cyberattacks and cyberwar; companies, individuals and governments are at increased risk.  

Deepfakes provide the media that enables fake news to appear realistic – such convincing manipulations can misguide and inflame the public. The most common deepfake attacks on businesses are:

- Social Engineering: Social engineering and fraud are not new threats to businesses; employees and IT infrastructure are common targets of spam, phishing and malware attacks. Many companies have adapted to deal with these threats by upping security protocols and educating staff. Deepfakes are a new generation of cyber threats – contributing to fraud by providing unparalleled means of impersonating individuals in traditionally ‘secure’ contexts, such as phone or video calls. These attacks come in many shapes and forms, for example, a CEO may phone an employee requesting an asset transfer, or a client may be impersonated via video conference asking for sensitive project details,  

- Market Manipulation: This tactic involves precise and targeted publishing of a deepfake. According to Sensity, a key example of this kind of attack could be a video of Donald Trump promising to impose or lift tariffs on steel imports, which would cause a company’s stock price to soar or plummet,  

- Extortion: Deepfakes enhance and may potentially increase the rate of extortion attempts made against influential business people. As deepfake technology thrives, manipulated video or audio of business leaders could be generated at scale by leveraging existing damaging rumours or even by fabricating new ones. These deepfakes may then be used to extort or blackmail and would spread so rapidly across social media that the damage would be done before the content could be taken down or exposed as false.  

The impact on Cyber Security

Deepfakes can appear anywhere, any time. Not all are intended to be malicious or have malintent, but it is vital to educate your employees about the emerging threat. Deepfakes have the ability to cause irreparable damage to your business’s reputation, profits and market value.  

Test your skills at identifying Deepfakes here!

If you have concerns about your cybersecurity vulnerability or would like to learn more, contact REDD today to learn how we can help.  

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