Deepfakes: Can Digital Signatures & PKI Save the Day?

digital signatures beats deepfakes

Deep fakes have created a significant impact in various fields, including culture, privacy, and reputation. Deepfakes are synthetic media that use artificial intelligence (AI) to create images, videos, and audio that appear real but are not. They have been used to spread false information, create misinformation and confusion about important issues, and fuel other unethical actions like creating revenge.

Deepfakes Impact

Deepfakes have been used for celebrity videos, misinformation and hoaxes, fake news, blackmail, and fraud. As deepfakes continue to improve in their believability and grow in prominence, their own reputation is growing, too. The hope is that the verification requirement would reduce the spread of possibly harmful deepfake media. However, some deepfakes are easier to spot than others, and deepfake technology is iterative, and changing quickly. Therefore, organizations must take a more holistic view of security, and recognize just how broad the threat of deepfakes is. Full-spectrum Threats.

How have deepfakes been used in politics

Deepfakes have been used in politics to create misinformation, manipulate public opinion, and potentially influence election outcomes. For instance, there are concerns that political operatives could develop attack ads using deepfakes to spread false information and manipulate voters. There have been instances of deepfakes being used to create synthetic, computer-generated imitations of political figures, including former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis , to spread false or misleading content. The potential impact of deepfakes on elections has raised concerns about voter manipulation, erosion of public trust, and the spread of false information. Additionally, the use of deepfakes in political campaigns has prompted calls for regulatory measures to address the threat posed by AI-generated media to the integrity of the political process.

How Digital Signatures & PKI protects from deep fakes

Digital signatures and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) play a crucial role in protecting against deep fakes by providing a means to establish the authenticity of digital content. Deep fakes, which are sophisticated forms of digital manipulation, can undermine digital trust by blending real and fabricated content. To combat this, encrypted timestamps, created using PKI, can serve as digital watermarks, attesting to the authenticity of the content at the time of capture. These encrypted watermarks ensure that the content is timestamped in a way that cannot be manipulated or forged, providing a reliable method to distinguish genuine records from their deepfake counterparts

Digital signatures work by serving as an irrefutable piece of data that proves the digital identity of the author and the authenticity of the communication. They are created using cryptographic techniques supported by PKI, and they help protect the integrity of files and data by providing a way for users to verify the authenticity of the content

In the context of deep fakes, digital signatures and certificates link a signature to a specific originator, and they are used to verify the authenticity of data. The process of verifying a digital signature used with a certificate involves checking the validity of the digital signature and the certificate linking it to the originator. This process, supported by PKI, helps ensure the authenticity of the content and prevents the forging of digital signatures

How PKI builds trust

PKI provides a framework for managing digital identities and cryptographic keys, ensuring the validity and integrity of digital signatures.

Here’s how PKI works its magic:

  • Identity verification: A trusted authority (CA) verifies the signer’s identity using rigorous procedures.
  • Key generation: The CA issues a public-private key pair to the signer. The public key is shared openly, while the private key remains secret.
  • Signing content: The signer uses their private key to sign the digital document, creating a unique “fingerprint.”
  • Verification: Anyone can verify the signature using the signer’s public key. If the signature matches the fingerprint, it ensures the document hasn’t been altered.

Benefits of using digital signatures and PKI

  • Authenticity: Guarantees the content came from the claimed source and hasn’t been tampered with.
  • Non-repudiation: Prevents the signer from denying they signed the document later.
  • Increased trust: Creates a transparent and verifiable audit trail for digital content.
  • Combatting deepfakes: Can be used to verify the source and authenticity of video and audio content, making it harder to spread deepfakes.

Embedding digital signatures

The process of embedding digital signatures in cameras involves integrating tamper-resistant digital signatures, including timestamps, location, date, and photographer’s name, directly into the images captured by the camera. These digital signatures are designed to be impervious to editing techniques, providing a way to distinguish real photographs from AI-generated deepfakes. The digital signatures are tamper-resistant and aim to ensure the authenticity and integrity of digital images, thereby helping to prevent the proliferation of deepfakes. Nikon, Sony, and Canon are collaborating to combat deepfakes by embedding tamper-resistant digital signatures directly from the cameras to identify AI-generated content. Nikon’s offering will see the introduction of mirrorless cameras with “tamper-resistant digital signatures” for professionals using their devices. A common denominator across all the offerings is a firm’s strong claim that digital signatures will be tamper-resistant and impervious to editing techniques as an added layer of protection.

How to protect existing content

There are 2 possibilities:

  • Images, videos, and audios can be converted into other formats like PDF. Later this PDF can be digitally signed to protect it identity and integrity using PAdES standard
  • Embedded in other signature formats like CAdES to protect their integrity and identity
  • Implement C2PA specification – see more below

How C2PA protect digital media

C2PA (Content Consumption and Provenance Authority) utilizes digital signatures in a multifaceted way to safeguard the integrity and identity of digital media content:

Content Provenance Statements

  • C2PA relies on digital signatures to embed “provenance statements” within the media file itself.
  • These statements act as assertions, providing information about the content’s origin, creators involved, and any modifications made during its lifecycle.
  • By digitally signing these statements, C2PA ensures their authenticity and prevents tampering.

Secure Manifest Creation

  • A “manifest” is a separate file that accompanies the signed media content.
  • It holds metadata about the content, including file type, size, and cryptographic hashes.
  • C2PA digitally signs this manifest, guaranteeing that the metadata hasn’t been altered and accurately reflects the signed content.

Cryptographic Hashes and Verification

  • C2PA leverages cryptographic hashes to create a unique digital fingerprint of the media content.
  • This hash is included in the signed manifest and serves as a reference point for verifying the content’s integrity.
  • When a user accesses the content, the system can recalculate the hash and compare it to the one embedded in the signed manifest.
  • If the hashes match, it confirms the content hasn’t been tampered with since it was signed.

Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)

  • C2PA often utilizes PKI for signing operations.
  • PKI employs digital certificates and digital signatures to establish trust between entities involved in the content lifecycle (creators, distributors, consumers).
  • Only authorized entities with valid certificates can sign content and provenance statements, ensuring their legitimacy.

Benefits of C2PA’s Digital Signature Approach

  • Tamper Detection: Any attempt to modify the content or associated metadata will invalidate the signatures, alerting users to potential tampering.
  • Improved Attribution: Signed provenance statements provide a transparent audit trail, clearly showing the content’s origin and any changes made.
  • Enhanced Trust: By verifying signatures, users can be confident about the content’s authenticity and avoid consuming manipulated media.


By integrating PKI-based encrypted timestamps into digital content, organizations can address the root cause of the erosion of digital trust caused by deep fakes. This innovation not only safeguards biometric authentication systems but also helps rebuild the foundation of trust in digital records, ensuring that every photograph, video, or voice recording carries an indelible mark of authenticity.


What is PKI?

To learn about PKI checkout our article on PKI Basics.

Give me a summary on Digital Signatures past, present and future

Checkout our article Digital Signatures.

What are some potential long-term effects of deepfakes on society beyond their current uses in politics and misinformation?

Deepfakes have already shown their potential to significantly impact various aspects of society, extending beyond their current uses in politics and misinformation. In the long term, they could undermine trust in digital media and further blur the line between reality and fiction. This erosion of trust may affect domains such as journalism, entertainment, and personal relationships, raising questions about the authenticity of digital content and the reliability of information in the digital age.

How do digital signatures PKI address the threat posed by deepfakes, and what are the limitations or challenges?

Digital signatures and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) play a crucial role in combating the threat posed by deepfakes by providing a means to establish the authenticity and integrity of digital content. However, while these technologies offer valuable tools for verifying the source and authenticity of digital media, they also come with challenges. For instance, the effectiveness of digital signatures in detecting deepfakes depends on factors such as the sophistication of the forgery and the availability of reliable reference data. Moreover, ensuring widespread adoption and standardization of PKI-based solutions across different platforms and applications remains a challenge.