The Heads of State and Key Political Figures Targeted by Deepfakes

deepfake collage

It’s not just Joe Biden edited to look like he’s behaving inappropriately – deepfake technology is enabling a new wave of attacks to democracy and financial scams.

While not a new topic or threat, deepfakes vaulted into public discourse last month, when a series of pornographic Taylor Swift images flooded social media and prompted even the White House to take a stand against the technology. 

Now, deepfakes are used for financial scams at the highest level, as some recent cases reveal. And, with 2024 being a major electoral year for most countries in the developed world, things are only going to get worse.

Mugur Isarescu deepfake: politicians and key influencers under attack 

The world’s longest-serving central bank governor, Romania’s Mugur Isarescu, was used on social media to trick viewers and direct them to invest on a fraudulent platform.

Another prominent Romanian politician, Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu, was deepfaked in the same way.

“We are extremely concerned about the significant rise of these types of fraud attempts and we urge people to be very careful with every transaction that they make,” central bank spokesman Dan Suciu said

Deepfake CFO runs away with $25.6 million

JUst earlier last month, SCMP reported that Hong Kong authorities had a huge case of deepfake fraud on their hands.

Scammers used deepfake technology to replace each and every individual in a call, including the company’s chief financial officer, in order to trick the victim into authorizing huge financial transactions.

“This time, in a multi-person video conference, it turns out that everyone you see is fake,” said the Hong Kong police official, as quoted by the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

The scammers convinced the victim to make 15 transfers, transferring a total of $25.6 million to five Hong Kong bank accounts.

Rishi Sunak deepfakes flood social media

In the UK, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is a popular target for deepfakes. In January alone, more than 100 Rishi Sunak deepfake video ads ran on Facebook, reaching as many as 400,000 people. According to researchers, the scammers who created the videos spent more than £12,929 on 143 adverts, which originated in countries like the US, Turkey, Malaysia and the Philippines.

This comes after an audio clip of U.K. opposition leader Keir Starmer swearing at staffers went viral, getting more than 1.5 million views. That was also a deepfake, and their proliferation seems to be picking up speed.

What will come next? With few countries taking steps to address this crisis, it’s hard to tell. We certainly do live in interesting times.

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