Deepfakes are developing to be a real security hazard for individuals and companies, as we’ve come to the point when people can hardly believe in their eyes and ears anymore.
Swindlers are making the most of the new technology to deceive their ‘marks’ into falling for their confidence tricks.
Deepfake is a portmanteau word that mixes ‘deep learning’ and ‘fake’. It’s artificial intelligence used to create convincing images, audio and video that are false, and can be used for many applications, including hoaxes.
Deepfakes, in general, are not illegal, as long as you are explicitly depicting them as such, and not using them for disingenuously misleading people. But that’s exactly what criminals are using it for.
Its algorithms can generate lifelike people and animals, imitate the likeness of an individual, or manipulate images of real people into doing or saying things they haven’t in reality.
The opportunity for criminal deceit is ample, as a worker in a company in Hong Kong found out recently.
“The Hong Kong branch of a multinational company has lost $25.6 million (HK$200 million) after scammers using deepfake technology posed as the firm’s chief financial officer (CFO) in a video conference call and ordered money transfers, according to the police, in what is being highlighted as first of its kind cases in the city.
The money transaction was ordered during a meeting where it was found that everyone present on the video calls except the victim were deepfakes of real people, said the Hong Kong police, on Friday (Feb 2).”
This is the first case of its kind in Hong Kong which involved a large amount of money.
Superintendent Baron Chan Shun-ching said that in previous cases, the scam victims were tricked by one-on-one video calls.
“’This time, in a multi-person video conference, it turns out that everyone you see is fake’, said the Hong Kong police official.”
In this case, criminals used deepfake technology to turn publicly available video and pictures of company executives into convincing meeting participants.
“According to Chan, the worker involved had been suspicious since he received the message purportedly from the company’s United Kingdom-based CFO and first dismissed it as a phishing email back in January. However, the talks of the need for a secret transaction continued.
The worker, according to Chan, dismissed the doubts after the video call because other people in attendance had looked and sounded just like colleagues and some others he recognized.”
The Superintendent also said that the while deepfake con-men did ask the victim to introduce himself, they did not actually interact with them during the meeting.
The fake characters on the screen only gave the victim orders, before the call ended abruptly.
The employee proceeded to follow the instructions, and made 15 transfers totaling $25.6 million to five Hong Kong bank accounts.
The entire episode went on for a week before the worker involved made an inquiry with the company’s headquarters.