A simple hillside patio at his small Santa Cruz home offers famed digital detective Hany Farid something that the hallowed halls of Dartmouth College cannot: a place to think.

With just a laptop and cup of coffee, Farid writes the computer code that reveals tiny flaws hidden in phony photos. His suite of software tools — which identify statistical differences in an image’s lighting, patterns, geometries and other features — tell whether an image is real, or faked. He teaches a computer to see what the human eye can’t.

“This is my office. I can come out here and work for 10 hours,” said Farid, 42, from his lawn chair. “When I’m stuck on a problem, I go pull some weeds.”

A founder of the emerging field of digital forensics, the highly regarded computer science professor escapes to Santa Cruz during New Hampshire’s long gray winters. Free of Ivy League committee meetings and other professorial responsibilities, he can ponder an algorithm and then relax by riding his powerful Harley-Davidson V-Rod up the coast.

Here in the sunshine and fresh ocean air, he’s studying some of digital’s darkest secrets. That image of a young girl engaged in sex — is she a real child, or computer generated? …

Santa Cruz-based computer scientist builds tools to detect digital hoaxes, fakes and child porn – SiliconValley.com
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