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Microsoft believes China-affiliated actors are using AI generated images to sway US voters

An artistic depiction of a chip with the US and Chinese flags in the background

With the 2024 US Presidential election primaries now just a few months away, a recent report from Microsoft states that organizations affiliated with China are trying to spread disinformation about major issues to influence US voters via local social media networks.

In a blog post, the company announced a new report from its Microsoft Threat Analysis Center (MTAC). The report, in PDF format, will be part of an ongoing series by the MTAC that will look at current cyber threats by various groups in different regions of the world. In this case, this week's report looks at threats that are based in eastern Asia, including China.

Microsoft stated in the report:

Since approximately March 2023, some suspected Chinese IO assets on Western social media have begun to leverage generative artificial intelligence (AI) to create visual content. This relatively high quality visual content has already drawn higher levels of engagement from authentic social media users. These images bear the hallmarks of diffusion-powered image generation and are more eye-catching than awkward visual content in previous campaigns.

Microsoft's blog post on this report adds that it expects China to keep improving and refining these generative AI-created social media images in the future, but it's currently unknown "how and when it will deploy it at scale."

Microsoft revealed earlier this summer that a China-affiliated hacker group known as Storm-0558 managed to get access to US and European government email accounts. Microsoft recently admitted that the group was able to obtain an MSA key to gain access to those accounts due to more than one flaw in its security methods. The company claims it has taken measures to close those security holes.

In August, Microsoft sent out a warning about another China-based threat actor group called Flax Typhoon. The company said this hacker group has been conducting espionage campaigns targeting Taiwan since 2021.

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