The camera never lies
I’ve written this to accompany a video that posted on a social media platform that I had quite a bit of feedback on and was generated by the doublecat app on my mobile phone.
The reason that this video was made in the first place was due to me coming across the app whilst researching the world of deepfakes. You may have heard the word deepfake before and wondered just what that meant, well this is it. Deepfake is the ability to make it seem like a subject is performing a host identities action by mapping the subjects features and attributes to the host.
You have seen this technology before if you’ve watched Lord of Rings with Andy Serkis playing Golem or the young Kurt Russel at the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy 2. It’s matured to the stage where the ability to identify whats real and what isn’t is now a job for forensics, opening up a whole new area for exploitation.
How to deepfake
Doublecat is a great and fun app that allows you to take a photo of your face and superimpose it onto a selection of video’s, with some very interesting results. From what I gather, Doublecat uploads your facial image and calls the reface.ai API to generate the video and return it to the app on your mobile device. Doublecat isn’t the only app that does this and the Snapchat filters is very closely related.
The capability to perform this manipulation isn’t the preserve of large companies with novel software and patents limiting the use of this technology. There is free and open-source software that anyone can download and create sophisticated facial mappings that is far more powerful than the android app that I used to generate the video.
Deepfakes are an emerging form of identity theft, the obvious targets of an attack would be politicians or celebrities who’s activities are under scrutiny, a carefully orchestrated campaign could damage their public image.
A large demographic under threat of this is going to be the school age kids who can create and spread deepfake media through their own networks. A deepfake sextape could be weaponised against classmates at their most vulnerable time when they’re trying to form their own identity.
You’re not in the clear though, as the possibility of any individual to be face-swapped into situations that they were never in is a very real threat. The previously mentioned sextape for blackmail or going as far as face swapping crime footage is possible by the criminals themselves or even rogue law enforcement.
Public posts of pictures on the internet and social media are a treasure trove for anyone wishing to utilize this technology and so avoiding this is going to offer some level of protection. There are of course other methods of getting facial images but the low hanging fruit is going to be much easier and less costly to target for your casual adversary.
Proving a deepfake will not necessarily make it disappear as there will always be a subset of people that doubt the evidence, and also a group that don’t really care if it’s a deepfake or not.
For the majority, social media is going to be the main platforms for a deepfake attack going viral. Be very mindful of yours and other privacy when using them.