Security Sidebar: What's Real, and What's Fake?

Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) are deep neural net architectures comprised of two networks, pitting one against the other (thus the “adversarial”). These networks can learn to mimic any distribution of data, and they can take input from many different sources in order to create things that are extremely similar to real-world things. Things like images, music, speech, prose, etc. One website uses GANs to study thousands of human faces and then generate faces of people who do not exist.


Fake Pictures

The website This Person Does Not Exist uses GANs that study thousands of human faces and then generate faces of people who do not exist. Do you know the girl shown below? No, you don't. She doesn't exist.




The Generative Network works alongside a Discriminative Network to determine how authentic the picture actually is. In effect, the generative network "generates" the picture (based on real life images) and then the discriminative network provides feedback on whether the picture actually looks real or fake. Here's a cool picture of the process of how these GANs study real picture inputs and then generate fake pictures.





On one hand, this is cool and fascinating stuff. On the other, it can get pretty freaky pretty fast. It also makes me think about the picture that my buddy showed me of his new "girlfriend"...I'm gonna need to actually meet the girl to confirm she's a real person.


Fake Videos

Related to all this, new advancements are coming in the area of artificial intelligence and fake videos. While video manipulation has been around for a relatively long time, researchers at Samsung have recently been able to take a single picture and turn it into a fake video of that person. We all know Miss Mona Lisa, right? Well, have you ever seen her have a conversation. No, because video wasn't around back then. Well, now you can...



When you add together the fake images from these GANs and the ability to turn a single picture into a video of that person, you get some crazy possibilities. Maybe the video evidence that has always been so trustworthy in a court room is suddenly not. Maybe your favorite politician gives a private speech on a controversial topic...or maybe they don't? The possibilities can get pretty extensive.

In times like these, remember the fateful words of Abraham Lincoln (16th President of the United States):

"Never believe everything you see on the Internet."

Published Jun 19, 2019
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