Iran Reportedly Uses AI Generated Anchor to Air Fake News Report in United Arab Emirates

By Kevin Eck 

In a move that could spell trouble for news stations in the US, Iranian state-backed hackers interrupted European-based streaming services in the United Arab Emirates to air a report about the war in Gaza created by artificial intelligence.

Microsoft, in one of its blogs, said hackers led by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards disrupted streaming platforms in the UAE with an AI-generated news broadcast branded For Humanity.

From The Guardian:


The fake news anchor introduced unverified images that claimed to show Palestinians injured and killed from Israeli military operations in Gaza. Analysts at Microsoft said the hacking group, known as Cotton Sandstorm, published videos on the Telegram messaging platform showing it hacking into three online streaming services and disrupting news channels with the fake newscaster.

According to the Khaleej Times, a UAE-based news service, Dubai residents using a HK1RBOXX set-top box were interrupted in December with a message stating: “We have no choice but to hack to deliver this message to you,” followed by the AI-generated anchor introducing “graphic” footage, as well as a ticker showing the number of people killed and wounded in Gaza so far.

Microsoft also cited reports of disruptions in Canada and the UK, with the channels affected including the BBC, although the BBC was not hacked directly.

“This marked the first Iranian influence operation Microsoft has detected where AI played a key component in its messaging and is one example of the fast and significant expansion in the scope of Iranian operations since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict,” said Microsoft. “As we look forward to the 2024 US presidential election, Iranian activities could build on what happened in 2020 when they impersonated American extremists and incited violence against US government officials.”