Putting words in their mouths

Think seeing is believing? Not so fast. New technology is standing that axiom on its head. And it’s no longer safe to even believe what you hear.

Researchers from the University of Washington have developed technology that allows them to take an audio of a person speaking and, combining it with a compilation of available video, create a new realistic-looking video of someone saying something that was only recorded on audio.

The animated gif below was created by the team from the University of Washington of Barack Obama speaking. Researchers said Obama was chosen because there are so many hours available of video clips of him speaking.

But this technology, combined with technology that allows for voice cloning, means that videos can be faked as easily photographs can be faked.

The voice cloning technology has reached such a sophisticated state that if someone has recorded as little as one minute of you speaking, a computer can use that to recreate your voice and it’s inflections. So now a video can be made that appears to show a person saying something he or she never said. And the technology – and ways to use it — continues to develop and improve.

The nefarious ways this combined technology can be used are limitless. Far beyond just creating “fake news,” hostile actors can use it to convince or coerce one into making incriminating statements or acting against his best interests or believing he’s taking a call from a loved one in who is injured or in danger. It can also be used to gain access to voice-controlled accounts.

As The Economist noted, voice biometrics software used by many banks to block unauthorized access to accounts were tricked by fake voices 80 percent of the time, leading one of the software developers to note that systems dependent upon voice-ID software are “deeply, fundamentally insecure.”

This gives fake news a whole new meaning, but goes far beyond that.

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