Beware of Deepfakes: How AI is being exploited by blackmailers to generate explicit content

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PUREVPNBeware of Deepfakes: How AI is being exploited by blackmailers to generate explicit content

In the age of artificial intelligence, deepfake has emerged as a new and troubling threat against online privacy – and women appear to be one of its biggest targets.  

Deepfake refers to a technique that uses AI to generate fake yet incredibly convincing images and videos by swapping the faces and voices of its actual subjects. While cybersecurity experts have repeatedly expressed concerns about the growing sophistication of this technology, a recently issued bulletin by the FBI has caused a stir regarding the increased use of AI in sextortion schemes.

The law enforcement agency has advised the public to be careful while posting their photos and videos online as malicious actors can potentially use them to fabricate sexual imagery. The investigators also reported an increase in the instances of criminals using AI-generated media to blackmail victims, demanding gift cards, cash, and even real explicit content from non-consenting adults and minors alike. 

Deepfakes: An emerging threat to women everywhere 

Not everything you see online is necessarily true or accurate, but what happens when you can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction?

Deepfake technology has evolved rapidly over the past years, going from goofy GIFs and bizarre videos to fake news and defaming content. In fact, a 2019 research revealed that 96% of all deepfake videos on the internet were pornographic in nature, featuring altered imagery of women – especially actresses – without their consent.  

To make matters worse, this technology has evolved to a point where it can be difficult for one to determine if the video they are watching is authentic or fabricated. According to a 2021 study, most people cannot detect deepfakes, despite thinking that they can. In addition, many tend to mistake deepfakes as the real deal.

These studies, put together, draw the picture of a distressing future. 

It is no secret that women are often the primary targets of sextortion. Gender inequalities and power imbalance combined with social stigmas and fear of reputational damage make women the most significant target of sex crimes. The objectification and sexualization of women in the media further add to this problem, making this demographic more vulnerable to such attacks. 

With deepfake videos infiltrating the internet at a breakneck pace, women and minors are at more risk of being exploited by criminals than ever before. It is also important to mention that while sextortionists usually demand young women to send them sexually explicit photos, they are increasingly targeting young men for money.

Read more: Top 10 deepfake apps and why they can be dangerous 

How can you protect yourself from deepfake sextortion?

Here are a few practical steps you can take to safeguard yourself against the evolving threat of AI-created pornographic content. 

  • Be cautious of what you share online: Be careful of the personal information you share on your social media accounts. Moreover, consider limiting the amount of personal data, especially images or videos, that are publicly accessible on these platforms.
  • Boost online privacy settings: Review and adjust the privacy settings on your social media accounts to control who can view and download your content. Restricting access to your personal data can help keep you safe from malicious actors.

    Furthermore, if you believe your personal data has been leaked, consider using PurePrivacy to reclaim your information from data brokers. 
  • Think twice before sharing intimate content: Practice caution while sharing your intimate photos or videos, even with a trusted partner. In addition, you may want to encrypt your personal files with PureEncrypt before backing them up to ensure your data remains safe at all times. 
  • Learn how to detect deepfakes: Stay ahead of the threat by learning how to detect it. Educate yourself about AI tools and learn how to identify potential signs of manipulation. 
  • Use strong passwords for your accounts: It is important to practice good password hygiene by using unique credentials for every online account. You should also enable two-factor authentication on all your devices for added protection. Using an advanced password manager such as PureKeep could also be highly beneficial. 
  • Report and seek support: If you or someone you know encounter a deepfake or become a target of sextortion, please report it immediately to the relevant online platform and authorities that deal with cybercrimes. Seeking support from family members, friends, and professionals can also help victims cope with the emotional impact of this privacy violation. 

AI-driven sextortion schemes are on the rise, with criminals stealing photos and videos from social media to generate deepfakes before blackmailing unsuspecting victims for money or real explicit content. Since women are the biggest targets for these scams, they must consider safeguarding their digital footprint by using a virtual network provider such as PureVPN and being cautious about sharing their personal information online. 

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