Security Fears About Software That Can Copy Your Voice

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After its unveiling in a live demo at the Max Conference San Diego last week, Adobe’s Project VoCo audio/voice manipulation software has been the subject of some concern over its potential for misuse.

What Is Project VoCo?

Project VoCo is an audio editing program that enables you to edit speech as easily as you can text or pictures. This is why it has also been dubbed the “Photoshop of speech”.

How Does It Work?

The program needs around 20 minutes of voice samples from a person. These samples are then broken down by the program into phonemes which are the smallest units of sound in speech. These phonemes are then transcribed, and the voice model is then created.

What’s The Problem?

The potential problem with the program that has caused the voicing of concerns is that the program is so flexible that it could be misused. For example, VoCo allows you to use the same voice model to create completely new recordings. In other words, you can take a recording of a person’s voice and make a new version from it that includes words and phrases the original speaker never used.

Some critics have therefore said that VoCo has the potential to undermine trust in journalism or even pose a security threat. Other critics have suggested that the developers of the program had somehow missed or ignored the ethical dilemmas involved in creating a voice manipulator of this kind.

Some of the main concerns about the capabilities and availability of the program include that:

  • It could mean that digital media may therefore not be able to be used – e.g. by lawyers and journalists, because of doubts about authenticity.
  • It could be used to fool bank security systems where voiceprint verification is being used for customers who phone in.

No Ship Date Announced

So far, just the demo of VoCo has been shown to the world, and although Adobe are standing by their product for the many positive benefits that it will bring, no ship date has been announced for it and the release date is not imminent.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

As a product that could be potentially used by businesses, VoCo could be a very powerful, useful and value-adding/time-saving tool – for example, when used to fix podcasts, create marketing communications, or even to fix audio book recordings.

Businesses also have the right to feel nervous about how the program could be used in the wrong way, e.g. by a cyberfraud/cyberattack on the business or on the bank that the business uses.

At present, the biometrics companies (who are now being used by banks) are re-assuring people by saying that their systems would not be fooled by VoCo. Research is also under way to find a way to enable detection of the use of the software, e.g. by some kind of watermark.

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