Rumor: North Korea's latest military image Photoshopped?

An expert on doctored images tells MSN News that North Korea's hovercraft beach-storming picture is a Photoshop hack job.


An image of hovercrafts released by North Korea was heavily altered, expert says

In the photo, six amphibious military vessels speed across the water toward a snow-dotted shore. Two additional hovercrafts have already landed, and, surrounding them, a group of about 30 uniformed soldiers sprint toward an unknown target. North Korea, whose government released the photo, was sending out its usual message of military might with the image. But almost as soon as the picture was released, accusations of Photoshopping began to surface. MSN News talked to Dartmouth computer science and digital forensics professor Hany Farid, one of the country’s foremost experts on detecting Photoshopped pictures, about North Korea’s latest image release. His assessment: The photo is mostly, if not completely, fake.

The cloned wars

Farid points out numerous telltale signs of image alteration in the hovercraft photo. Perhaps the most easily noticed sign of editing, he says, can be seen in the hovercrafts closest to the camera, which appear to have been “cloned”  that is, copied from one portion of an image to another.

“This type of cloning is very common. It’s very easy to do Photoshop has a ‘clone brush’ that’s very easy to use,” Farid says. “The drawback is, if you duplicate something, the eye can see it. What they tried to do was make it look like there were more hovercrafts, but what they cloned is an actual object, and we’re pretty good at noticing that.”

Better than Iran, at least

Citing an infamously Photoshopped image released by Iran of missiles launching (see the image), Farid says that if the North Koreans deserve any credit, it’s that they learned something from the Iranians and changed the size of the images to reflect distance from the camera. “The two hovercrafts, you can see they are a little bit different in size. They either took the one on the left and shrank it or took the one on the right and made it bigger,” Farid says. He adds that because Iran and North Korea have such a long history of releasing doctored images, any photo that comes from the countries’ governments should be treated with extreme skepticism.

Entire image fake?

The two hovercrafts closest to the camera may be the most easily identifiable as Photoshopped, but Farid says the six other vehicles in the background show similar signs of manipulation and are “almost certainly” clones. The troops surrounding the crafts also “look weird to me,” Farid says, noting the seeming lack of shadows behind them compared with other objects, which show long shadows. Farid says it’s also not unlikely that the entire image is fake  a computer-generated forgery that could be done easily using stock images and a few effects. “Something like that would be very easy to computer generate,” he says.

Photos: See more Photoshop failures



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