Most of us are aware of the disinformation war. The term "fake news" has been thrown out a lot lately, especially during the 2016 and 2020 United States presidential elections. "Fake news" can be defined as the dissemination of online reporting that is completely made up. An economic study from cybersecurity firm CHEQ and the University of Baltimore revealed that fake news costs the global economy nearly 80 billion each year. While synthetic media, which includes deepfake videos and voice cloning, fall within the category of fake news, they have something that makes them stand out. They are fueled by artificial intelligence (AI). In 2019, Amsterdam-based cybersecurity company Deeptrace reported that online deepfake videos doubled, reaching close to 15,000 in under a year.
Voice cloningVoice cloning or AI voice deepfakes is the creation of an artificial simulation of a person's voice. This technology is widespread these days. Just Google voice cloning or AI voice synthesis, and you will see results from companies such as Resemble.AI and Respeecher. A documentary about late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain caused controversy when the creators revealed that they had used AI to create audio of Bourdain. Another example of the serious scale of voice cloning is when a company called Sonantic announced it had created an AI voice clone of actor Val Kilmer, whose own voice was damaged in 2014.
Synthetic media is not going anywhere.Speaking to CBS' Sixty Minutes, Nina Schick, a technology consultant who wrote the book Deepfakes: The Coming Infocalypse said that by "five to seven years, we are basically looking at a trajectory where any single creator, so a YouTuber, a TikToker, will be able to create the same level of visual effects that is only accessible to the most well-resourced Hollywood studio today." The threat on businesses Using synthetic media technology, malicious actors are targeting businesses. The FBI released a report on March 21 stating that actors outside the US are currently incorporating manipulated digital content into disinformation campaigns. The report added that those actors "almost certainly" will be using deepfakes to advance their influence or cyber operations "using synthetic content in spearphishing and social engineering in an evolution of cyber operational tradecraft." The Wall Street Journal reported in 2019 that the CEO of a UK-based energy firm believed he was on the phone with his boss when he followed the orders to immediately transfer €220,000 to the bank account of a Hungarian supplier. Writing for Forbes Magazine, Oscar Frazier warned of what he called an evolving threat known as "business identity compromise" (BIC) — similar to business email compromise — saying "it is another area in which synthetic content use is expected to expand." In a BIC attack, actors could use AI technologies to manipulate corporate identities, which would then be used to access internal systems and data.
How to protect your business from synthetic mediaIf you are an owner of a business, it's crucial that you prepare yourself and your employees for potential synthetic media attacks are some of the steps that you can take:
- Training and awareness: Educate your employees about the widespread use of deepfakes and how it affects businesses worldwide.
- Invest in AI solutions that detect these threats.
- Implement anti-attack practices to minimize threats, such as disabling site source code to prevent attackers from taking over your site.
- Avoid publishing too much information about employees on your organization's public website.
- Ensure that multifactor authentication is utilized when possible.
- Train your employees to spot synthetic media like deep fake videos.