By Daniel McGroarty
TES GeoPolicy Editor
In April, I commented on a DefenseOne article about an AI-enabled capability called GANs – generative adversarial networks – and the risk that GANs could be used to fabricate “deep fakes,” computer images planted in Google Earth, for instance, depicting geological features that don’t exist, or air-brushing out those that do.
According to the head of the CIA’s Digital Directorate: ‘We are in an existential battle for truth in the digital domain’….”
As I wrote then, from what we’re learning about AI, in that existential battle, the smart money’s not on truth. Leci n’est pas un missile balistique. Or is it?
Consider this Deep Fake Part Deux.
Meet Katie Jones. A think tank fellow at Washington, D.C.’s Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and graduate with Russian studies degrees from the University of Michigan who is, in our non-cyber living-and-breathing reality, precisely none of those things. She’s a cyber-creation, busily reaching out via LinkedIn to make professional pals with various movers-and-shakers in high places or heading for high places, like a senior aide to a U.S. Senator, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, and a former Trump White House policy advisor short-listed for the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors.
The story – Experts: Spy used AI-generated face to connect with targets – comes courtesy of Associated Press (AP).
Katie’s LinkedIn photo – “a closely cropped portrait of a woman with blue-green eyes, copper-colored hair and an enigmatic smile” – is a digital Mona Lisa meets Mata Hari with a dash of Anna Chapman and Keri Russell.
German digital artist Mario Klingemann tells AP: Katie “appears to have been created using a family of dueling computer programs called generative adversarial networks, or GANs, that can create realistic-looking faces of entirely imaginary people.”
William Evanina, director of the U.S. National CounterIntelligence and Security Center, paints the bigger picture:
“Instead of dispatching spies to some parking garage in the U.S. to recruit a target, it’s more efficient to sit behind a computer in Shanghai and send out friend requests to 30,000 targets.”
Meeting in that parking garage can happen later, as GANs-enabled cyber-personas cross over into real life.
Credit Keir Giles, identified by AP as “a Russia specialist with London’s Chatham House think tank,” with outing Katie. AP notes:
“Giles was recently caught up in an entirely separate espionage operation targeting critics of the Russian antivirus firm Kaspersky Lab. So when he received an invitation from Katie Jones on LinkedIn he was suspicious.”
As for Katie, following this spike in interest, she’s disappeared from LinkedIn, receding into the deep-fake dark web.
“Ceci n’est pas Katie Jones.” Just who deep-faked her, we’re not sure. But who- or whatever she is, she’ll be back. Or her siblings already are.
Daniel McGroarty, TES editor of GeoPolicy, served in senior positions in the White House and Department of Defense.