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Forget video deepfakes, audio-only deepfakes are now a very real threat

Now we can’t even trust a simple phone call

hackerman
Image: YouTube

There is no denying that, in this age of advanced technology, concerns around deepfaking are very much on the rise. We’ve seen a lot about video deepfakes, more so with the latest Zao app, but did you know that audio deepfakes is also now a thing? Well, according to a report from NISOS, it very much is. Plus, it is clear that those producing them do not have the best intentions. Naturally.

Scam calls have also long been a way for criminals to get their hands on your money. Many people fall foul of these. But, if you think you recognize the voice on the end of the phone, are you more likely to trust it? Well, perhaps not, but you can see how people would.

Thieving bastards

hacker on computer security Chinese government

Image: Tech Everywhere

So what are these audio deepfakes all about? Well, it is essentially a way for criminals to compromise business finances. It works in very much the same way as a phishing email. It works by tricking the recipient of the call into divulging sensitive info. They can then sell this information on, or use it to plunder business accounts and steal funds. However, this uses the actual voice of someone the recipient knows, to fool the recipient further.

Who is calling, please?

How has this been discovered? Well, an employee of a tech firm (details such as company/employee name, etc, are unavailable) received a very suspicious call claiming to be from the CEO of the company. You can listen to the call below and, I’m sure you’ll agree that it does sound fairly convincing. In this instance, the employee contacted the legal department at their company and it was flagged as a fraudulent call.

The scam is actually quite complicated and the techniques the scammers employ are pretty advanced. Basically, they harvest audio recordings of the target’s voice. They then use AI software to compose completely unique “voice calls”. Once they have enough to produce a sentence or two, they can launch their attack. Fortunately, the employee was suspicious. If this was aimed at an intern who knows no better, the consequences for everyone at the company could have been significantly worse.

With this latest case, NISOS confirm that they were unable to trace the original call. The scammers use a VOIP service, which doesn’t require registration and so can remain anonymous. This way, it acts as a burner phone and cannot be linked back to the original attacker. The subterfuge is multi-layered, here.

Not the first time

online shopping and hackers

Image: Unsplash

This isn’t the first time we’ve been made aware of these cowardly criminals. Back in 2019, the CEO of a UK energy provider was fooled by a very similar scam. While this may have “only” been to the tune of £220,000 (about $286,000), it still illustrates how advanced these techniques are becoming. The criminals in this particular case are still on the loose. This is very much a new technique in terms of cybercrime. If we’re at this stage already, I dread to think where the future will take us.

As technology inevitably grows, we will no doubt be subject to more and more news like this. It is unlikely that these ruthless criminals will stop at defrauding large companies, too. Pretty soon, they will be stealing on a much smaller—yet more frequent—scale and emptying the bank accounts of people like you and me who can’t afford to lose cash like that.

The best thing you can do right now is to remain vigilant. Guard your phone, screen your calls, and perhaps download an app or two that can inform you when your phone is spying on you. Whatever you do, never hand over any details to a random caller; you have no idea who they could be.

Scary, right? Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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