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Combating Deepfakes: Leveraging Phone-Centric Identity℠ Verification to Overcome Media-Based Vulnerabilities

Tim Brown
July 5, 2024

Identity verification systems that depend on image or audio samples for digital customer onboarding are increasingly vulnerable to deepfake attacks. With the use of artificial intelligence to fabricate convincing live video, audio, or still images, these falsified materials are employed to subvert digital identity verification processes. As a relatively new threat approach, it’s a problem that fraud teams must add to their growing list of potential vulnerabilities. But with the quality, scale, and sophistication of deepfake technology continually evolving, the threat has rapidly become a top priority for almost all companies, and they need a better solution for handling it. 

The inherent vulnerability of systems relying on media capture lies in their dependence on external devices beyond the control of the verifying entity. Whether it's document authentication or selfie capture, these methods often introduce significant friction for users while remaining susceptible to manipulation by malicious actors. As deepfake technology continues to advance in quality and sophistication, the need for more resilient authentication methods becomes increasingly urgent.

Lack of Context Creates Identity Verification Gaps

Systems that rely on capturing visual data are vulnerable to deepfakes primarily because they lack contextual or supplementary information to verify the authenticity of the visuals. Fraudsters can exploit access to application and website APIs, leveraging vulnerabilities in their code to introduce AI-generated content, tricking the system into believing it originates from a legitimate source. Such systems relying on external media capture for remote onboarding are particularly susceptible to deepfake manipulation, as they lack control over the devices capturing the data.

Here's why:

  • Limited Input Data: Visual data alone, such as images or videos, often lack additional metadata or context about when, where, and how they were captured. This absence of contextual information makes it easier for malicious actors to fabricate or manipulate visuals without leaving behind significant traces of tampering.
  • Innovation in AI: With the rapid advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies, particularly in the domain of generative models, it has become increasingly feasible to create highly realistic synthetic content. Deep learning techniques, such as generative adversarial networks (GANs), can generate convincing images and videos that are difficult to distinguish from real ones.
  • Difficulty in Detection: Deepfake techniques are becoming more sophisticated, making it challenging for traditional detection methods to identify manipulated content accurately. As deepfake technology improves, the visual cues and artifacts traditionally associated with manipulation become less noticeable or detectable.
  • Lack of Authentication Mechanisms: Systems relying solely on visual data often lack robust authentication mechanisms to verify the integrity of the content. Without additional layers of authentication, it becomes easier for deepfakes to pass off as genuine.
  • Social Engineering and Misinformation: Deepfakes can be used as tools for social engineering and spreading misinformation. By leveraging realistic visuals, malicious actors can deceive individuals or manipulate public opinion, potentially causing significant harm.
  • Accessibility of Tools and Resources: The availability of open-source tools and resources for creating deepfakes has lowered the barrier to entry, allowing even individuals with limited technical expertise to generate convincing fake content.

The Growing List of Deepfake Attack Types

Deepfakes take on a variety of forms. These are the most popular ways that fraudsters use deepfakes to circumvent identity verification processes: 

  • Facial Recognition Manipulation: Fraudsters use AI-generated deepfake images or videos to deceive facial recognition algorithms, granting unauthorized access to accounts or secure premises.
  • Voice Cloning Exploitation: Leveraging AI-driven voice cloning technology, fraudsters replicate someone's voice with precision, exploiting voice authentication systems to gain unauthorized access or facilitate fraudulent transactions.
  • Social Engineering with Chatbots: AI-driven chatbots emulate human interactions, allowing fraudsters to impersonate trusted individuals or customer service representatives, manipulating victims into divulging sensitive information or executing transactions.
  • Manipulated Video Content: Deepfake videos closely resembling trusted contacts or influential figures are used to deceive individuals into surrendering sensitive information or performing fraudulent actions.
  • Phishing with AI-generated Messages: Fraudsters craft convincing messages using AI-generated text, audio, or video to deceive individuals into revealing personal information, passwords, or financial details.
  • Impersonation of Authority Figures: Deepfake videos or audio recordings impersonate authority figures like CEOs or government officials, spreading false information or soliciting unauthorized actions.
  • Altered Conversations and Speeches: Deepfake technology manipulates recorded conversations or speeches to distort the original intent or message, leading to misinformation or confusion.
  • Synthetic Identity Fabrication: Deepfake technology is used to create entirely synthetic identities, bypassing identity verification processes to gain access to services or sensitive information.

These are just a few examples of how deepfake technology can be exploited for fraudulent purposes. As the technology continues to evolve, new forms of deepfake attacks may emerge, emphasizing the importance of robust security measures and vigilance in combating digital deception.

Deepfake-Resilient Authentication: Enhancing Security While Ensuring User Convenience

In the digital age, ensuring secure customer onboarding while maintaining a smooth user experience is paramount. Traditional methods relying solely on image capture for authentication are increasingly vulnerable to deepfake attacks. To address this challenge, a more reliable authentication method is needed—one that enhances security without introducing friction or barriers to entry.

By leveraging device intelligence and cryptographic authentication, tied to accurate identity data, we can fortify the authentication process against deepfake threats. This approach involves gathering additional data points beyond mere image capture, such as device biometrics and behavioral biometrics. These inherent characteristics of the user's device bolster the authentication process without burdening users with additional actions.

Implementing cryptographically secure keys establishes a secure connection between the user's device and the authentication system. This ensures that only authorized users can access the platform, safeguarding sensitive information during transmission and storage.

Customer experience teams can employ these approaches to design an onboarding process to be seamless and intuitive, and still minimizes user friction while maintaining high levels of security. Streamlining authentication steps and leveraging device intelligence automate certain aspects, reducing user burden.

Like any type of threat, deepfakes appear in a variety of forms which necessitates continuous authentication mechanisms that monitor user activity in real-time, verifying identity throughout the interaction with the platform. Adaptive security measures dynamically adjust based on risk factors and user behavior, mitigating potential threats without hindering user experience.

By adopting these techniques, we create a robust authentication method that not only outperforms traditional approaches but also future-proofs against emerging threats like deepfakes. This ensures a secure and smooth onboarding experience for customers, protecting both their data and our platform.

How to Leverage Phone-Centric Identity Signals and the PRO Model for Secure Authentication

Prove's PRO Model of Identity Verification and Authentication is centered on key principles for establishing identity:

  • Possession: This verifies if the user is physically in possession of their phone, leveraging it as a decisive factor in confirming interactions. Prove’s Phone-Centric Identity technology conducts a possession check yielding a binary outcome, ensuring engagement with the individual who purports to be on the other side of the transaction.
  • Reputation: This assesses whether the phone number is associated with risky changes or suspicious behaviors, aiding in flagging potentially fraudulent activities.
  • Ownership: This confirms the association between an individual and a phone number, providing a binary result of True or False.

Through Prove's Trust Score® Marketplace API Solution, a real-time measure of phone number reputation that can be leveraged for identity verification and authentication dynamically assessing phone number reputation in real-time, organizations gain a valuable tool for authentication. Prove’s Trust Score® API analyzes behavioral patterns and Phone-Centric Identity signals, effectively combating fraud across various touchpoints.

Additionally, the Prove Auth® possession check solution instills confidence that the user is still in possession of the mobile device across multiple interactions between the client and end user. The PRO Model facilitates a strong bind of the end users’ identity to a phone number and device, ensuring authenticity.

Prove's key management capabilities maintain confidence in the device as the device belonging to the user who is supposed to be interacting with the client. It relies on the trustworthiness of network signaling, device, and user signals. Unlike methods dependent on perception, Prove's approach eliminates the imprecision targeted by deepfakes, enhancing security in authentication processes.

Enhancing Security with Device Trust: Safeguarding Against Deepfake Threats

Adding an extra layer of security through establishing device trust is seen as the most significant way of reducing the threat and impact of deepfakes. Applied as a part of the identity verification and authentication process, it delivers greater accuracy and dependability. In a very general sense, device trust is crucial in combating image and audio-based attacks because it prevents the submission of fraudulent content.

When a device is trusted, the risk of fraudulent activity is mitigated. By verifying that the onboarding user is in possession of the device and that they own it, the authenticity of the submitted data is assured. This process ensures a secure capture, enhancing the reliability of identity verification and authentication.

By relying on device trust, Prove’s client can negate the possibility of fraudulently generated content being used in the verification process. This extra layer of security not only safeguards against deepfake attacks but also instills confidence in the integrity of the authentication system. Overall, establishing device trust strengthens the security posture of identity verification solutions and bolsters user trust in the authentication process.

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