A deepfake video of South Indian actress Rashmika Mandanna has created a furore, with top industry figures such as Amitabh Bachchan calling for efforts to curb fake videos. The twitterati were quick enough to spot the original video where the British-Indian social media influencer is seen coming out of a room.

“I feel really hurt to share this and have to talk about the deepfake video of me being spread online. Something like this is honestly, extremely scary not only for me, but also for each one of us who today is vulnerable to so much harm,” Rashmika said in a tweet responding to the video that went viral.

What is deepfake

Most of us have pictures and videos of ourselves posted on social media. Sometimes we are tagged in some media sites and maybe the video includes a good sampling of our voice. Through AI ML/DL (Machine Learning/Deep Learning), those posts can be used to build a simulation of our likeness and/or voice to trick someone into believing we’ve done or said something we never did.

Worried over the challenge of deepfakes, the Union Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) recently asked social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, to take down misleading content generated through artificial intelligence – deepfakes – within 24 hours.

Deepfake video clips started to appear across the internet in late 2017. By the beginning of 2019, more than 7,900 deepfake videos existed online, and a mere nine months later, that figure nearly doubled to 14,678. Since then, deepfake tech has continued to proliferate.

As the video goes viral, support pours in for Rashmika with her colleagues in the film industry calling for action on the perpetrators. 

“Today, as a woman and as an actor, I am thankful for my family, friends, and well-wishers who are my protection and support system. But if this happened to me when I was in school or college, I genuinely can’t imagine how could I ever tackle this,” she said.

“We need to address this as a community and with urgency before more of us are affected by such identity theft,” Rashmika said.

Cybersecurity experts, however, cautioned that this is just the tip of the iceberg. “Technological tools were available even in the past. But the tools are getting sophisticated with advances of artificial intelligence. Mischief mongers are using these tools to create such videos which can create havoc,” Samir K. Mody, Vice-President (Threat Research) of cybersecurity solutions company K7Computing, told businessline.

“In the last few years, we have also seen that Deepfakes are often weaponized to create content that will sway opinions, alter stock prices, or worse. These tools are readily available online, and threat actors will continue to use deepfake social engineering attacks to gain permissions and access sensitive data,” Sundar Balasubramanian, Managing Director of Check Point Software Technologies, India & SAARC, said.

Deepfakes are also being misused to fuel political agendas. A Deepfake video of Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky asking its soldiers to surrender in their fight against Russia was also shared on social media, to sow panic and confusion.

Quoting Mordor Intelligence research, he said the use of deepfakes grows by 400 per cent year on year, with Europol claiming that deepfakes will become a commonly used tool for many cyber criminals in the coming years.

Samir Mody said that deepfakes, which are being developed using AI, can be tackled with AI itself. “These videos leave fingerprints. We can check for timestamps and distinct features facial features of the victims to tell apart from the original from the deepfake,” he said.