The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a warning to the public about an alarming trend in which criminals are utilizing deepfake technology to carry out sextortion attacks.

Sextortion, a form of online blackmail, involves malicious actors threatening their victims by exposing pornographic material that has either been obtained through hacking or coercive means. In many cases, these perpetrators demand financial payments in exchange for not disclosing the explicit content.

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In many cases of sextortion involving compromising content, threat actors employ tactics to create an illusion of having access to intimate material. This deceptive approach is intended to intimidate victims and coerce them into complying with the extortion demands.

The FBI recently issued a warning regarding the alarming tactics employed by sextortionists. These criminals are now harvesting publicly accessible images of their victims, including seemingly innocent photos and videos shared on social media platforms. By utilizing advanced techniques and artificial intelligence, these perpetrators can generate sexually explicit content by manipulating these acquired photos.


Although the photographs or videos are fabricated, they are strikingly realistic. This realism provides a powerful tool for threat actors to exploit, enabling them to extort money from their victims. The potential harm caused by distributing such fabricated content to the target’s friends, family, or colleagues cannot be underestimated, as it can inflict significant personal and reputational damage.

According to an alert posted on the FBI’s IC3 portal, “as of April 2023, the FBI has observed an increase in sextortion victims reporting the use of fake images or videos created from content posted on their social media sites or web postings, provided to the malicious actor upon request, or captured during video chats.”
In recent victim reports, the malicious actors often demanded:

  1. Payment (e.g., money, gift cards) with threatening to publish the pictures or films to relatives or social media friends if funds were not received; or
    The victim will send actual pictures or videos with a sexual theme.
  2. As per the FBI, those who make sexual content occasionally forego coercion and upload the finished products directly to pornographic websites, exposing the victims to a huge audience without their knowledge or consent.

Sextortionists may utilize these newly public uploads to put more pressure on their victims by requesting money to take down the posted pictures and videos from the websites.
Unfortunately, according to the FBI, adolescents have also been impacted by these media manipulation activities.

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How to protect yourself

It’s crucial for all internet users, particularly those belonging to vulnerable categories, to recognize and navigate the increasingly hostile online landscape created by the widespread availability of powerful AI-enabled content creation tools.

A concerning fact is that numerous content creation tool projects now exist, enabling the production of remarkably realistic videos using just a single image of the target’s face, without the need for additional training or datasets.

While some of these tools incorporate safeguards to mitigate misuse, those available for purchase on dark web marketplaces and underground forums often lack such protections.
The FBI advises parents to keep an eye on their kids’ online behaviour and to have a conversation with them about the dangers of revealing private information online.
Additionally, parents are recommended to perform online searches to ascertain their children’s online exposure and take appropriate action to remove content.

Adults who upload photos or videos online should only allow a small group of close friends to view them to limit exposure. Children’s faces should always be hidden or blurred at the same time.

Finally, report it to the authorities and get in touch with the hosting platform to ask them to take down any deepfake content that shows you on pornographic websites.
Deepfake sharing that occurs outside of mutual consent is now illegal in the UK, according to an amendment to the Online Safety Bill.


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