AI used by crooks to create explicit deepfake images for blackmail, FBI warns

Bad actors are using AI-powered content generators to create pornographic deepfakes of victims, some of them underage, so they can blackmail them, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has warned.

Sextortion or threatening to reveal explicit images of a victim online unless a payment is made has long been a growing concern on the internet, but this unpleasant new twist means that people can be victimized even when they’ve never shared explicit photos of themselves.

Victims report that originally innocuous images of them posted on social media platforms are being taken and doctored by miscreants, presumably using AI-content generators, which have exploded since ChatGPT took the digital world by storm in November.

The FBI said in a recent public service announcement that it “continues to receive reports from victims, including minor children and non-consenting adults, whose photos or videos were altered into explicit content.”

It added: “The photos or videos are then publicly circulated on social media or pornographic websites, for the purpose of harassing victims or sextortion schemes.”

In what appears to be a further nasty twist, bad actors have also reportedly used AI-generated deepfake ‘porn’ images to coerce victims into sending them the real thing.

“Malicious actors have used manipulated photos or videos with the purpose of extorting victims for ransom or to gain compliance for other demands, for instance, sending nude photos,” said the FBI.

The Bureau adds that it has seen an “uptick” in the disturbing trend since April, with an increasing number of sextortion victims claiming fabricated images of them were used in online blackmail and intimidation campaigns.

Ransom or blackmail payment demands are typically in the form of money or gift cards, “with threats to share the images or videos with family members or social media friends if funds were not received.”

The FBI recommends that potential victims apply privacy settings on their social media accounts and exercise caution when accepting friend requests or posting images, videos and other personal content online.