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12 Sep, 2023 23:26

US frets over ‘deepfake’ threats to national security

Federal security agencies have warned that AI-generated imagery will increasingly be used in cyberattacks
US frets over ‘deepfake’ threats to national security

The US National Security Agency (NSA) and FBI have issued a threat alert over “deepfake” technology that could potentially be used to help breach computer systems in the military and other sensitive targets.

Hackers can use computer-generated imagery to hijack brands, impersonate organization leaders and gain access to sensitive data, the federal agencies said on Tuesday in a cybersecurity advisory. While such tactics have been employed in the past, advances in artificial intelligence have made it easier and less expensive to create deepfake images.

“The tools and techniques for manipulating authentic multimedia are not new, but the ease and scale with which cyber actors are using these techniques are,” NSA mathematician Candice Rockwell Gerstner said in a statement. “Organizations and their employees need to learn to recognize deepfake tradecraft and techniques and have a plan in place to respond and minimize impact if they come under attack.”

The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) also contributed to Tuesday’s advisory. The agencies warned that deepfake attacks could present challenges for security agencies, the Pentagon and defense contractors. The agencies recommended that organizations deploy technologies that can detect deepfakes and trace the origin of multimedia files.

“In addition to undermining brands and finances, synthetic media can also cause public unrest through the spread of false information about political, social, military or economic issues,” the advisory said.

Those concerns will take on heightened significance as the 2024 US election approaches and congressional Republicans advance their impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden. Touting the deepfake threat also could create a pretext for questioning the validity of authentic multimedia files.

During the 2020 election cycle, the FBI set the stage for social media censorship of a bombshell report on alleged influence-peddling by the Biden family – as evidenced by files on a laptop that Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, had abandoned at a repair shop.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said last year that his platform throttled back sharing of the Biden story because the FBI had warned the company that law enforcement expected a major “dump” of Russian disinformation just before the election. A group of former US intelligence officials cited that warning after the laptop story broke, falsely claiming it had the “hallmarks” of Russian disinformation to benefit Biden's campaign.

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