A multinational company was scammed out of $25.6 million by hackers who fooled employees at the company's Hong Kong branch into believing their digital recreation of its chief financial officer — as well as several other video conference participants — were real.
The hack, believed to be the first of its kind, highlights just how far deepfake technology has progressed.
As the South China Morning Post reports, scammers are believed to have used publicly available footage to create deepfake representations of the staff. Some of the fake video calls apparently only had a single human on the line, with the rest being deepfakes created by the hackers.
"This time, in a multi-person video conference, it turns out that everyone you see is fake," senior superintendent Baron Chan Shun-ching told the SCMP.
A finance department employee was tricked into believing that a secret transaction had to be made, beginning with a phishing message in mid-January.
Despite at first being doubtful, the employee attended a group video call that featured the deepfake versions of the company's CFO, as well as other staff — who reportedly looked and sounded like their real-life counterparts.
"They used deepfake technology to imitate the voice of their targets reading from a script," Chan told the SCMP.
Unsurprisingly, the employee didn't really interact with the deepfake avatars and was only asked to introduce themselves.
According to Chan, two to three employees were targeted by the scammers. At least one other employee also attended an orchestrated video conference call.
Deepfakes seem poised to finally start wreaking some real havoc. The news comes after pornographic deepfakes of Taylor Swift started flooding social media feeds last month, triggering a heated debate over the responsibility of companies to stop people from creating and sharing these images online.
Deepfakes have also been used by kidnappers to get a ransom. In May, a scammer in northern China managed to cheat a man out of $622,000 by masquerading as his friend using AI-powered face-swapping and voice-cloning software.
Fortunately, as far as fake corporate conference calls are concerned, Hong Kong's police department offered some helpful tips on how to identify deepfake participants. For one, individuals could ask them to move their heads — or simply ask them other questions to see if they're real before authorizing a $25 million transfer.
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