Deepfake Social Engineering & Cognitive Psychology 🤖🧠

The technology responsible for malicious social engineering, animation, and... meme videos of Tom Cruise 😸

The person on the right isn’t Tom Cruise:

This person doesn’t exist:

And some things just aren’t quite what they seem:

What is going on??

Mind-boggling stuff 😳

We’re talking about deepfakes, the technology responsible for what you see above - and how it plays into cybersecurity and cognitive psychology:

  1. 🤖 Deepfakes & Dangers

  2. ❌ Human-centric counter measures against them

  3. 🧠 Cognitive psychology and exploring the unconscious 🤔

But, before we jump right into it, here’s the solution1 to last newsletter’s riddle (congratulations to everyone who cracked it! 🥳): If you write out pi to two decimals backwards it spells pie. [full solution steps in footnotes]

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🎙 Δx podcast

This episode was a special episode covering a speaker from Black Hat USA 2021, one of the most recognized information security event series internationally. 🏴🌎 For most of us who couldn’t make it, here’s your chance to hear from Dr. Matthew Canham on his presentation “Deepfake Social Engineering: Creating a Framework for Synthetic Media Social Engineering” at Black Hat. ✨

Listen to the podcast below or on your favorite podcast app, or directly on the Simplecast here 👇

💎 Δx takeaways

Before we get into its implications and talk about the brain, let’s break down deepfakes: the What, the How, and the Why. ❓

  1. What exactly is a deepfake?

Deepfake = “deep learning” + “fake”

“Deepfake technology uses AI to repurpose/reengineer existing audio or video files. In effect, creating a synthetic “syn” puppet to say whatever it is that the master wants the syn puppet to do or say” 🎥 - Dr. Canham

  1. How is it used?

Originally designed for its applications in animation/entertainment, deepfakes have also been maliciously used for phishing campaigns, virtual kidnappings, and disinformation newscasts. 📨🗣

Imagine being able to star in your favorite movie alongside your best friends. 😮 That’s the kind of interactive entertainment deepfakes could provide in the future.

  1. Why does it matter?

For the same reasons deepfakes are so good for entertainment (very realistic repurposing of original video/audio), they are also dangerous because we are used to believing what we see and hear. 🙉 If a deepfake video of a celebrity, news anchor, or even influential leader like the President can be hard to detect and bought into by many, this creates the opportunity for widespread disinformation.

🤔 So, what are some ways we can prevent against this threat?

Dr. Canham mentions human centric counter measures such as preshared secrets 🔐: a way to authenticate with the other person you are interacting with through some sort of preshared or common knowledge. 💭

Are there ways we can authenticate we are talking to the other end without compromising privacy? ❌🔒

Tapping into the cognitive side of things: Dr. Canham also brings up the investigation of if there are detectable neurological signatures of the brain that indicate if a person is aware of deepfakes unconsciously. 🧠


How amazing is it if our brain’s own facial recognition system can give red flags that what we are looking at may be a deepfake? 🚩

What if we are consciously biased towards what reinforces our existing beliefs or rationalizing away inconsistencies, but our unconscious minds can give away hints?

“There’s an area of the brain called the fusiform gyrus - it’s sole function is face perception.” 😇

This is an area that is currently being studied, but really fascinating to think about nonetheless :)

For more on deepfakes, the uncanny valley, limitation attacks, similarities to aviation, and cognitive psychology, give the rest of the podcast episode a listen!

📰 Δx change

Speaking of deepfakes…

  1. 🤖 Advertising company uses people’s faces for deepfake marketing clones: A company is using digital deepfake copies for AI clones to sell people products and education services, according to the MIT Technology Review. Weird to think someday your own clone may be advertising something to you.

  2. 💱 El Salvador Bitcoin experiment: El Salvador does not have a currency of its own, and relies on the US dollar.

    The Bitcoin Law was passed by the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador on 8 June 2021, giving the cryptocurrency bitcoin the status of legal tender within El Salvador after 7 September 2021. It was proposed by President Nayib Bukele. - Wikipedia

  3. Perseverance rover gets first rock sample: After failing to do so last month, NASA’s Perseverance rover has successfully collected a sample of Martian rock. This is the first Mars sample destined to be flown back to Earth to study - but it will be at least 2031 before it arrives on Earth.

That’s all I got for this week! :) Hope you enjoyed this edition of Delta X newsletter and podcast, I’ll see you in the next one!


Ellen X

Thanks for reading!

Thank you for being a part of the Delta X community and reading all the way to the end! :D


To decode: find all the misspelled words and their first letters (urkagidufqagfbufafiapqouymxenmowimdpeufebqxxebuq), then decrypt with Caesarian shift with N = 14 (number of Delta X newsletter)