Date: August 30, 2023Attorney: Steven W. Teppler

Lawyers are not immune to the rapidly evolving landscape of technological advancements. Deepfake technology, which involves the use of artificial intelligence to manipulate audio and video content, presents a significant and emerging threat to the legal sector. Lawyers must be vigilant and prepared to address the potential misuse of deepfakes by clients or adversary counsel, as these malicious creations have the potential to undermine the integrity of legal proceedings.

The Rise of Deepfake Technology

Deepfake technology has advanced at an astonishing pace, enabling the creation of highly realistic audio and video content that can deceive even the most discerning eye and ear. What was once relegated to the realm of science fiction is now a tangible tool in the hands of cybercriminals and malicious actors. Cybercriminals have successfully exploited deepfake voice simulations to execute elaborate scams, leading to substantial financial losses.

Threats to the Legal Profession

  1. Impersonation of Legal Professionals: One of the most concerning applications of deepfake technology in the legal sphere is the potential for cybercriminals to impersonate lawyers, clients, or even judges. Adversary counsel or clients could use deepfake content to manipulate evidence, fabricate statements, or even imitate a legitimate legal professional’s voice or appearance. This could compromise the fairness and credibility of legal proceedings.
  2. Fraudulent Communication: Deepfakes can be used to create convincing audio or video recordings of clients engaging in conversations that never occurred. Lawyers could receive instructions, advice, or information that is entirely fabricated, leading to inappropriate legal actions or misguided decisions.
  3. Client Vulnerability: Lawyers need to be aware that their clients could also be victims of deepfake scams. Legal professionals could receive requests for sensitive information, funds, or legal actions purportedly from clients, which are actually initiated by cybercriminals.
  4. Undermining Trust: Deepfakes have the potential to erode the trust between lawyers, clients, and the legal system at large. The skepticism surrounding the authenticity of audio and video evidence could hinder the progress of cases and delay justice.

Mitigating the Threat

  1. Verification Protocols: Lawyers should adopt circumstance-appropriate verification protocols when receiving instructions or requests via audio or video communication. Implementing multi-factor authentication and utilizing secure communication channels can help confirm the authenticity of interactions.
  2. In-Person Verification: For critical matters, consider conducting important discussions and decisions in person, whenever possible, to reduce the risk of falling victim to deepfake communication.
  3. Awareness and Training: Lawyers should stay informed about the latest technological advancements, especially those with the potential to impact the legal field. Training programs can help legal professionals recognize potential signs of deepfake manipulation.
  4. Documenting and Confirming Communications: Maintain a comprehensive record of all communication with clients and adversary counsel. Confirm messaging sources where appropriate. This documentation can serve as evidence to challenge any deepfake-related attempts to deceive or manipulate.

The legal profession stands at a crossroads where technological innovation intersects with ethical challenges. Deepfake technology introduces a new dimension of risk that demands heightened awareness, diligence, and adaptation from lawyers. By embracing proactive measures to counter the threat of deepfakes, legal professionals can continue to uphold the integrity of the justice system and protect the interests of their clients.