‘Deepfake’ crimes on the rise, Europol warns


Criminals could also use deepfake technology to coerce people online, including exploiting children for underaged sex, make non-consensual pornography and falsify or manipulate electronic evidence in judicial investigations. — 123rf.com

THE HAGUE: The use of deepfake technology is gaining ground in the criminal underworld and should be targeted as a priority, Europe’s policing agency warned on April 28.

The ability to make people say or do things online that they never did – or to create entirely new personas – could be used to devastating effect in the wrong hands, Europol said.

“The growing availability of disinformation and deepfakes will have a profound impact on the way people perceive authority and information media,” the Hague-based Europol added.

It released a 23-page report looking at how artificial intelligence and deepfake technology could be used in crime including to erode trust in authority and official facts.

“Experts fear this may lead to a situation where citizens no longer have a shared reality, or could create societal confusion about which information sources are reliable – a situation sometimes referred to as ‘information apocalypse’ or ‘reality apathy’,” Europol said.

Criminals could also use deepfake technology to coerce people online, including exploiting children for underaged sex, make non-consensual pornography and falsify or manipulate electronic evidence in judicial investigations.

Businesses too were at risk.

In one example, criminals used deepfake technology to imitate the voice of a company chief executive to order an employee to transfer US$35mil (RM152.68mil), Europol said.

“This makes it essential to be aware of this manipulation and be prepared to deal with the phenomenon, so as to distinguish between benign and malicious use of this technology,” it said.

Although it was still possible for humans to detect deepfake images manually by noticing blurred edges around the face, lack of blinking and other inconsistencies, technology was getting better – and detection harder.

“Ideally, a system would scan any digital content and automatically report on its authenticity,” Europol said.

“Such a system will most likely never be perfect, but with increased sophistication of deepfake technology, a high degree of certainty from such a system could be worth more than the manual inspection,” it said.

Many Internet companies have already put systems in place to outlaw deepfakes, including Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, as well as other social media giants such as TikTok, Reddit and YouTube.

“Policymakers and law enforcement agencies need to evaluate their current policies and practices, and adapt them to be prepared for the new reality of deepfakes,” Europol said. – AFP

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