Chroma Key Morphing alleged in Hillary Clinton Video..A lesson for Cyber Forensic Specialists

Some time back, there was a lot of discussion in India about a video in JNU in which allegations that anti India slogans were raised. There were two versions of the video one in which there were clear indications that  Mr Kannaiah Kumar was involved in anti India solganeering and another in which he was present but perhaps not participating in the sologaneering. Similarly there were also static pictures of two versions of the event one accusing the organizers about putting up anti India posters and another in which it was not.

Apart from the political discussions, it was a matter of interest for Cyber Forensic people also about how a video or a picture can be doctored and how some times, no evidence can be accepted without a discerning evaluation. It is extremely important for everyone to understand that modifying a digital image or video is eminently possible and is often used to create fake pictures circulated in the social media. Some times in the heat of a charged atmosphere, such doctored pictures gets circulated and re-circulated in WhatsApp groups and Facebook posts of innocent persons leading to innocent persons being hauled up by law enforcement people. The issue of arrest of more than 50 persons in Tamil Nadu for allegedly trying to spread false rumours on facebook about the health of  Jayalalitha is a case in point in our recent memory.

In the ongoing US elections where there is a bitter battle between Mrs Hillary Clinton and Mr Donald J Trump, there is a virtual social media war that is going on in the You Tube. As the mainstream media is supposed to be very much in favour of Mrs Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump camp is more dependent on the social media for its own campaign. Trump Camp is extensively using You Tube for its campaign while Twitter and Facebook are supposed to have been favouring Hillary. It is alleged that Twitter and Facebook are not showing pro-Trump discussions in the “Trending Category”.

Even You Tube was accused of blocking the “Streaming Facilities” provided to one of the Trump Sympathizers though there are many other You Tube videos that talk about Wiki Leaks and Hillary Clinton’s misdeeds. There are also plenty of videos on other associates of Hillary including President Obama, Michelle Obama, Huma Abedin, her husband Anthony Weiner and so on. All these videos have their own positive and negative influence on the electorate and therefore it is essential that the voters need to be able to identify the truthful videos from fake videos.

It is necessary for we in India to learn from what is happening here because the same strategies that are used to produce fake videos may also be used in India when it is election time here and the Indian Election Commission needs to take up a “Cyber Forensic Training” to understand how Cyber Space can be misused.

One of the recent videos that attracted my attention was the one where a Cyber Forensic aspect became apparent. We normally know that a digital image is modified by using “Photoshop” editing software which has many features which try to create morphed pictures. But when it comes to manipulating the video, it is slightly different.

In the JNU video case, it was suspected that the audio stream and the video stream was bifurcated in the video editing software and an alternate audio stream was super imposed on the video stream to create a false video. When you have two video files with the same video stream but a different audio stream, it is not easy to find out which is the original and which is the fake.

Police will find it extremely difficult to find the difference particularly when they are building up a prima facie case which leads to an intense media trial in which some Scoot and Shoot politicians specialize.

In the US Elections, there is one debate which is going on about the health condition of Ms Hillary Clinton. One observation is that the injury that she suffered several year’s back to her skull might have created a blood clot near her right ear which some times causes her to go into a “Seizure” like condition for a few moments when she is unable to control her eye ball movements.  Some say that this is an early symptom of the Alzheimer’s decease that makes her physical fitness to the US President suspect.

Recently, there was one Youtube video in which when Hillary faced a barrage of questions simultaneously from a few reporters around her, she suddenly seemed to go into a fit. We all know that people who suffer from epilepsy go into a seizure when they are exposed to strobing light or even flash bulbs. It appears that Hillary may be suffering from a similar “Audio Strobing trigger for Seizure” and when a simultaneous volley of questions are hurled at her, her mind cannot process the multiple voices simultaneously an goes into a state of confusion.

While I am not a medical expert and leave the speculation about such possibility to experts in the medical field, I would like to point out to one of the videos which was recently published in Youtube which is given here below for reference and is relevant for Cyber Forensics.

What this video says is that in one of the live interviews that was shot by NBC channel, Ms Hillary Clinton appeared to go on seizure and the channel tried to edit the video so as not to present an embarassing video to the public. But it is said that they did not do the editing properly and hence the doctoring of the video is evident on close observation.

In many Crime thrillers, we have seen a CCTV video hacking method where a small footage is recorded and made to play over and over again to hide the real streaming image. This works very well to cheat surveillance cameras normally used in perimeter security of an important physical asset.

As per the discussions available with the above video, it appears that the Channel might have used a different technique using a substitute frame as “Chroma Key” to morph a few frames of the video in which Hillary might have lost her control on her eye balls. The Chroma key is a video frame which is super imposed on another video layer so as to provide an indistiguishable frame over frame effect as if something is happening in the background. If you see a news reporter reading a report while his background shows a live video of a mountain stream, you know how Chroma key works. It is a common video mixing strategy used by all TV channels.

What is special in the above video is that the chroma key is simply one of the earlier frames of the same video and I find this as an interesting morphing technique used which we as Forensic analysists need to take note so that we are not fooled by such videos if we come across. I want the law enforcement people to specially analyze this technique and how to find them quickly to check possible misuse of social media through doctored videos.

I invite forensic specialists to comment on this video and the strategy discussed with an idea of how law enforcement can detect such doctored videos.

Needless to say that producing and publishing such videos would be an offence under ITA 2008 and channels will be liable for criminal prosecution either directly or as an “Intermediary who did not practice due diligence”.


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About Vijayashankar Na

Naavi is a veteran Cyber Law specialist in India and is presently working from Bangalore as an Information Assurance Consultant. Pioneered concepts such as ITA 2008 compliance, Naavi is also the founder of Cyber Law College, a virtual Cyber Law Education institution. He now has been focusing on the projects such as Secure Digital India and Cyber Insurance
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