US legislation mandating government research into deepfakes took a step closer to becoming law this week after it passed the Senate by unanimous consent.
Sponsored by Democrat senator for Nevada, Catherine Cortez Masto, the Identifying Outputs of Generative Adversarial Networks (IOGAN) Act recognizes the need for such research as nation states and cyber-criminals hone their tools.
“This bill directs the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to support research on generative adversarial networks. A generative adversarial network is a software system designed to be trained with authentic inputs (e.g. photographs) to generate similar, but artificial, outputs (e.g. deepfakes),” noted a summary of the bill.
“Specifically, the NSF must support research on manipulated or synthesized content and information authenticity and NIST must support research for the development of measurements and standards necessary to accelerate the development of the technological tools to examine the function and outputs of generative adversarial networks or other technologies that synthesize or manipulate content.”
Just this week, Europol, the UN and Trend Micro warned in a new report of the malicious use of deepfakes.
The tech offers cyber-criminals and state actors opportunities to extort high profile figures through pornographic and other content with their faces superimposed, undermine governments through misinformation and could also be used in quasi-BEC attempts to persuade corporate victims to make large wire transfers.
The latter technique has already been used by attackers with an audio clip, in which a British CEO was tricked into sending £200,000 to his attackers.
The potential for political disruption perhaps accounts for the Senate’s unanimous approval of IOGAN.
“In 2019, a deepfake video that went viral in Malaysia involved a political aide who appeared to confess to having had homosexual relations with a cabinet minister,” noted the Europol report.
“Additionally, the video included a call to have the minister investigated for alleged corruption. While the motive behind the video (beyond character defamation) remains unclear, it succeeded to wreak havoc politically and destabilize the coalition government.”
The US bill must now pass through the House of Representatives.