It will take a lot more credibility than this to fool the entire Internet… but AI is evolving at a fast pace and it may only be a matter of time.
So far, deepfakes have yet to trigger the disinformation apocalypse that some observers anticipated when technology exploded. But some tech-savvy scammers keep trying to trick internet users with such tricks; Recently, it was cryptocurrency enthusiasts who fell victim to a rather complex deepfake from Elon Musk.
We remind you that a deepfake is a medium such as an audio recording, image or video that has been hacked using methods based on artificial intelligence in order to replace part of its content. The most popular example is the replacement of characteristics such as the appearance or voice of a person in a video.
This technology can be quite interesting if used within certain ethical limits. An example is this memorable deepfake by Emmanuel Macron, shot by videographer French Faker, based on the short film Les Souss du Pouvoir by Maxime Bodin. There are also many smartphone apps that allow you to perform tricks, such as replacing your face with that of a celebrity.
But apart from these rather good-natured examples, these deepfakes continue to cause concern. They are indeed the vector of first choice for spreading disinformation on a very large scale or masking extremely clever scams. That’s the case with this video recently spotted by Bleeping Computer.
Sophisticated scam to steal cryptocurrencies
This is a montage made from excerpts from a real TED talk that Musk recently attended. But this authentic video was later altered to change Musk’s words. During this speech, the original version of which is available here, the billionaire mainly discussed Tesla, SpaceX and Starlink.
But here he praises BitVex in detail, the exchange he allegedly created. The video claims that Musk himself allegedly invested $50 million. It also explicitly mentions other notables such as the CEO of cryptocurrency giant Binance. But first of all, a mechanism is mentioned that will allow anyone to get a phenomenal income (about 30%!), By moving their crypto wallet there.
We remind you that this video, presented for informational purposes, is a deepfake, and the elements presented in it are an attempt at fraud!
Too good to be true? On target. Specialized site Bleeping Computer searched the source code of the site and confirmed that this is only a facade. The main goal was simply to rid naive internet users of their wallets by using Elon Musk as a drum in spite of himself.
It must be admitted that the scammers have made great efforts. Musk’s voice is relatively well imitated; it is a model, probably trained on real stakeholder statements. The visual trick is also believable enough to deceive an observer who is looking out of the corner of his eye.
Several immediately identifiable clues
However, the clues weren’t lacking once we took a closer look. From the first seconds it is difficult not to notice a very clumsy installation. He gives the conversation a really strange rhythm; anyone who has ever been to a TED talk and knows their achievement codes will immediately sense that something is wrong.
The voice of the billionaire also becomes suspicious after a few minutes. We quickly notice some of the pitch jumps, crackles, and jarring kinks that deepfakes of this genre often betray. The same goes for suspicious movements in the corners of the jaw and corners of the lips, in addition to a few visual artifacts that appear with jerky head movements.
And as soon as you are interested in oratory, there is simply no room for doubt. Anyone who has ever heard Musk speak knows that, technically speaking, he is not the most gifted speaker. He speaks rather slowly, pauses multiple times, picks up his words regularly, and tends to stutter slightly when he begins a lengthy explanation. For comparison, here is an excerpt from the original interview, which is much more representative of Elon Musk’s speech.
The difference is absolutely striking. In the first video, Musk speaks much faster than usual. At the same time, not the slightest fluctuation can be distinguished; a fluidity that is definitely not like him. He also ends his sentences with a much higher vocalization than in his other interviews.
Deepfakes remain limited…for now.
Luckily, this rather clumsy scam was quickly discovered by most of the victims. In total, the attackers only managed to steal $1,700 in cryptocurrencies, according to Interesting Engineering. In short, more fear than harm; and luckily this is often the case for these rather rough deepfakes (see our article). But this situation should still remind us that these deepfakes can pose a serious threat in other contexts.
In particular, we remember the deepfake of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky available at this address (carefully, this is a hoax!); At the beginning of the Russian invasion of the country, a deepfake circulated in which a person of interest called on Ukrainian militants to lay down their arms. In fact, it was an attempt at destabilization organized by Russian partisans. If the deception had not been immediately discovered, the Russian invasion might have taken a completely different trajectory.
The threat is becoming more and more urgent. Today, the best deepfakes, made by professionals more competent than those clumsy scammers, are completely indistinguishable to the average person (see our article). Therefore, there is a real danger of manipulation. This applies all the more to politically unstable areas where the situation is extremely unstable; in this context, a well-placed deepfake can easily ignite gunpowder before being exposed.
Therefore, more than ever, it is necessary to remain especially vigilant regarding records circulating on the Internet. Especially if they are not from an official source. Because this technology is still in its infancy; however, we are now entering a phase where AI research is advancing at a phenomenal rate. It’s probably only a matter of time before a really problematic deepfake throws a huge rock into the pond… In other words, it’s more important than ever to constantly mobilize your critical mind.