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Can you tell if a picture is fake?

Click to see full image.

Click to see full image.

Internet is already full of digital images and more is added every day. Digital pictures have become a cheap way for journalists to tell a story and ordinary people upload tons of them to social media. It’s quicker and easier to snap a shot and upload than to describe where you are and what the place looks like.

Photographs have always been seen as some kind of proof. Like a captured piece of reality. We are however aware of the fact that photographs can be manipulated. Digital image processing has revolutionized this area and brought amazing new techniques to us. But image manipulation has actually been a known technique since photography was invented. It is amazing to see what a skilled person can do to traditional images in the darkroom. Not to mention the fact that you can lie a lot just by taking the picture in a certain way.

This article is about our relationship to the digital images on the net. There’s a lot of manipulated pictures out there, but are you able to recognize a fake? And are you even alert and aware that the picture may not be the full truth? We are all confronted with many pictures a day that aren’t completely real. Objects may be added or removed, or heavy retouching has been used to make models look better. Here’s some concrete hints about how to tell the fakes from the real ones.

  • In what context is the picture presented? Image manipulation is the norm in some contexts, like product and fashion photography, and some kinds of artistic photo. News agencies and nature photographers on the other hand have strict ethical rules against manipulation. First think about if manipulation is to be expected and if it should be accepted. Does it matter if the photo isn’t real?
  • Is the image realistic overall? Some manipulated images are so surrealistic that you can dismiss them as unreal at once, even if they are very well done technically. Ask yourself; can this be real? See the illustration to this article for an example.
  • Do you have access to several shots from the same scene? Are there discrepancies between them?
  • Are light and shadows similar between objects in the picture? Pay attention to which side is lighter, how hard the light seem to be and how the objects cast shadows. Needless to say, objects close to each other get the same light in real life. If they are illuminated differently, they may originate from different photos. Also pay attention to the environment. From what direction is the light supposed to come?
  • Is the perspective right? Getting this right is always a challenge when combining objects from different pictures. Just look at the shot and trust your gut feeling. Pictures with minor perspective errors do often feel wrong even if you can’t tell what the problem is.
  • Does the objects’ edges look right? A lot of work may go into the edges when putting something in front of a new background. They often give away the fake if they are done sloppily or with lacking skills. Pay special attention to people’s hair as that is hard to mask.
  • Image manipulation often requires filling areas to replace removed objects. Patterns that repeat in an unnatural way is a sure sign of sloppy cloning. Cloning can also be used to multiply an object, but several identical object do rarely look exactly identical in a real photo due to differences in perspective and lighting. It’s fishy if they look identical in a picture.
  • Is the color consistent? Do different parts of a human’s body have the same skin color? An object’s apparent color depends very much of the illumination’s color temperature. Do the different objects have a consistent color cast?
  • All digital capture devices leave some kind of structure in the picture. Most notable is the noise produced by digital cameras. You can check that this structure is constant over the whole picture if you have access to a fairly hi-resolution image. It’s futile to try this on small images from on-line news sites.
  • Metadata is data hidden inside the image files. One important piece of data is the software used to save the file. A camera model name would indicate no manipulation at all. Workflow programs like Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture are typically used to do moderate adjustments of images, but no real manipulation. The image may be heavily manipulated if it is saved by Photoshop. But this does on the other hand prove nothing as you can do minor adjustments is Photoshop too. Also remember that this data may be lacking or even forged.
  • Even if a picture is totally genuine, it may be misleading if presented in the wrong context. Like someone using a picture of somebody else for a dating site profile. Here Google Image search comes in handy. Click on the camera to the right in the search field to open “Search by image”. Upload a copy of the image or paste in a link to it on the net. Google will search for images that look the same regardless of what context they are published in. This can often reveal that the image was found on the net rather than taken by someone who has posted it as his own.

That’s a quick list of things that help you spot the fakes. Using these hints require some training, but you will soon start seeing the manipulations if you keep them in mind when looking at images. But is it possible to make a perfect fake that is undetectable? Yes, especially if a skilled artist can work on a high resolution image and the result is scaled down to be published on the web. That down-sampling can hide the signs of manipulation effectively and make the fake practically undetectable for laymen. Scientific analysis methods are more capable, but they are not available to us mortals. And they may also fail to detect good fakes.

So the moral of the story is really that a photo shouldn’t be trusted too much unless its background is known and we know what ethical principles the photographer and publisher adhere to. News agencies typically pay attention to this and promise us authentic news pictures. These pictures are typically trustworthy, even if scandals do occur.

Safe surfing,Micke

PS. This funny video is one of my favorites on YouTube.

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When it comes to technology, students are more connected than ever. But there also seems to be a serious disconnect between what kids and parents think about teens online activity. A recent survey of online teens conducted for the Cybersecurity Alliance found that 6 of 10 students had created social media accounts without their parents knowledge. But only 28 percent of parents suspected their offspring had secret accounts. This suggests a lot of parents are just plain oblivious of their kids' online sneakiness. And other findings are equally troubling. While two-thirds of parents expected their kids would report any online incident that made them uncomfortable, only one-third of students said they would report such incidents. And just under half of the teens said they'd seek their parents help for problems online compared to the 65 percent of moms and dads who expected their teens to share their online problems with them "most" or "all the time." This confusion between what teens and parents think about online conduct suggests that parents need to be more proactive in preparing their kids for the challenges of having access to the world through devices that fit in our pockets. One strategy is to establish a history of discussing technology with you by racking as many positive interactions related to online life before your kids are faced with a crisis. The better they feel about talking to you about tech, the better chances they'll reach out to you when they're facing a real crisis. What's a better excuse to talk technology than when you're send your kid back to school? Here are few topics of discussion to consider before the first class begins. Parental controls If you're worried about the content your younger kids can see as they use the family PC, you can manage that through parental controls feature. This gives you a chance to explain that you want to protect them from inappropriate sites and strangers so you can feel confident about them having fun the web. But parental control doesn't just have to be a negative. The power to control your kids' time online, means you can also set up online reward time -- such as an hour or two when homework is done. Apps Downloading an app to your mobile device could mean you're inviting strangers to access your phone. Some apps may demand access to your kid’s camera, microphone, contacts and photos. Use the Application Privacy feature to go through your apps together to see what kind of permissions are being accessed. Reviewing privacy settings of social networking sites also provides a chance for your kids to ask questions or express concerns. Privacy There are several apps your kids can use to make sure a mobile device's data stays private, even if it gets lost. You can use Android's locate, lock and wipe feature to help find a misplaced device or to delete all personal data in a worst case scenario. Make sure your kids know that connecting over "free Wi-Fi" can expose your data and possibly even your passwords to strangers. Avoid that by connecting via mobile networks or by using a VPN app. Also make sure that they lock their devices using an unguessable code. Security hygiene Some parents need basic security reminders as badly as kids do, whether they're just getting online or heading to university. So remind yourself and your kids to use strong unique passwords for all their most important accounts. Your passwords shouldn't use any words from the dictionary or anything someone could guess by looking at your social media. Remind them that "free" online is almost always a bad sign. Don't click on links and attachments in emails that you weren't expecting. And remind your kids that anything they post online, even on sites that promise to delete things after twenty-four hours, could be seen by anyone -- even your parents. An open and honest conversation reduces chances that a uncomfortable situation online will become a crisis. So before your kids go back to school, start talking about how important it is to you that they connect safely, especially when you're not watching them.  

August 30, 2016
iphone untrackable

Update your iPhone right now — especially if you’re an activist

A little iPhone history was made this month -- a iOS device was infected by just clicking on a link. This sort of attack had previously only worked on devices where the owner had purposely installed a "jailbreak" hack. So before you do anything -- even read the rest of this post -- you should update your iOS software to the latest version of iOS 9, or iOS 10 beta, which has some nice new privacy features. Here's how this historic attack happened, according to The Verge: Earlier this month, an Emirati human rights activist named Ahmed Mansoor got a suspicious text. It promised new details of torture in the country’s state prisons, along with a link to follow if he was interested. If Mansoor had followed the link, it would have jailbroken his phone on the spot and implanted it with malware, capable of logging encrypted messages, activating the microphone and secretly tracking its movements. To our cyber security advisor Erka Koivunen, this is a glaring example of a threat that is not "advanced" -- as in APT, advanced persistent threat. Think about what goes into a real APT. "They do reconnaissance properly and understand what the victim is susceptible to. They have good timing and only create visible noise when it suits their interest," he told us. "And they have a plan B ready in case someone starts snooping their activities." Here, the the most exploitable iPhone vulnerability ever known has now been exposed and patched -- for what? It's a bit baffling to Erka who compares it to throwing "expensive exploits at this guy like kids throwing rocks." You just don't see zero-day vulnerabilities like this -- especially on what had been one of the more secure platforms available -- that often. This has some security researchers thinking: Perverse incentives: Should I take up political activism so I get more interesting 0day sent my way? /me wonders — halvarflake (@halvarflake) August 26, 2016 //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js So, if you haven't already, update now. And if you're involved in politics in *any way* whatsoever, realize that someone will try to hack you -- sooner or later. So beware of those links in strange texts and email attachments in general. [Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr]

August 26, 2016
BY 
ransomware gangs, cybercrime unicorn

Could Criminals Make A Billion Dollars With Ransomware?

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