woman looking into camera and her face is being scanned

Illustration by Max Fleishman

Deepfakes can fool biometric checks used by banks, research finds

Fraudsters can easily use artificial intelligence to open up fake accounts online.


Mikael Thalen


Posted on May 18, 2022   Updated on May 18, 2022, 2:23 pm CDT

A team of researchers has found that biometric tests used by banks and cryptocurrency exchanges to verify users’ identities can be fooled by deepfake technology.

In a report published on Wednesday, researchers with Sensity, a security firm focused on deepfake detection, demonstrated how it was able to bypass an automated “liveness test” by using AI-generated faces.

Commonly known as “know your customer” or KYC tests, such verification processes often ask users to provide photographs of their identification as well as their face. A “liveness test” is then used to capture the users’ face in real-time in order to match it to their selfie and identification photo with facial recognition.

KYC verification is utilized in a wide array of industries including banking, fintech, insurance, crypto, and gambling. Sensity tweeted out footage of its demonstration a week before it released its report, detailing how 9 of the top 10 KYC vendors were highly vulnerable to deepfake attacks.

“Despite its widespread adoption, active liveness checks are weak against attacks by Deepfakes,” the report states. “The reason is that real-time Deepfakes can reproduce faithfully facial landmark movements of the attackers.”

Even with such a glaring vulnerability, KYC vendors do not appear concerned about the potential for misuse. In a statement to the Verge, which first covered the report on Wednesday, Francesco Cavalli, Sensity’s chief operating officer, claimed that vulnerable companies did not appear to care.

“We told them ‘look you’re vulnerable to this kind of attack,’ and they said ‘we do not care,’” he said. “We decided to publish it because we think, at a corporate level and in general, the public should be aware of these threats.”

With massive crypto heists becoming common, it seems likely such vulnerabilities will be exploited more and more by cybercriminals as deepfake technology becomes more realistic and easier to use.

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*First Published: May 18, 2022, 11:29 am CDT