AI deepfakes are wreaking havoc on an unprepared financial industry

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by Joel R. McConvey, Activist Post:

The identity of the firm targeted in a deepfake video scam that resulted in the loss of US$25 million has been revealed. Although news about the fraud broke in February, The Financial Times has now confirmed that the injection attack was on UK engineering collective Arup, a group of 18,500 designers and consultants that focuses on sustainable development.

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The notorious incident, which took place at the group’s Hong Kong offices, involved a message from a fake CFO, followed by a video conference call that utilized digitally cloned deepfake avatars of the CFO and other executives to instruct an employee to make 15 different transfers to five Hong Kong bank accounts, totalling HK$200 million. Police investigations into the attack are ongoing but no arrests have been made. Arup’s Arup’s east Asia chair, Andy Lee, stepped down weeks after it occurred.

Rob Greig, Arup’s global chief information officer, tells Dezeen that Arup is “subject to regular attacks, including invoice fraud, phishing scams, WhatsApp voice spoofing, and deepfakes,” and raises the alarm about “the increasing sophistication and evolving techniques of bad actors.”

Deepfake and identity fraud rates soaring in APAC region

He is not alone. WIO News reports that the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) is also warning about a deepfake video scam in which an AI-generated avatar of Elon Musk promotes an illegitimate cryptocurrency trading platform called Quantum AI. Since the regulator altered Hong Kong police, some websites and social media pages related to the scam have been taken down. But some are still active.

Its relatively high volume of digital transactions makes Asia-Pacific ripe territory for fraudsters. Deepfake-related fraud in APAC increased by 1,530 per cent last year. Identity verification platform Sumsub reports in its Identity Fraud Report 2023 that Vietnam and Japan experience the highest number of deepfake attacks. But Hong Kong is one of the top five markets in Asia for identity fraud, with a rate of 3.3 percent in 2023. The SFC has issued 29 warnings about suspicious virtual asset trading platforms this year alone, 18 of which are related to cryptocurrency.

“Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Cambodia have more than doubled
their identity fraud percentages between 2021 and 2023, indicating
a growing concern,” says Sumsub’s report.

AI causing “acute digital identification and security crisis”: Marcotte

Michael Marcotte, CEO of artius.ID, is also on the bullhorn to warn about the risks that come with generative AI and deepfakes. Marcotte has highlighted the particular danger deepfake technology poses to free and fair elections. “Governments, either through a lack of ability or will, have failed to sufficiently defend democracy against deepfakes,” he says. Now, in an interview with Crowdfund Insider, he warns that the banking industry is facing “an acute digital identification and security crisis” prompted by tools like ChatGPT, Midjourney and other easily accessible generative AI tools. Banks, says Marcotte – a co-founder of the National Cybersecurity Center (NCC) – are not ready.

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