Artificial Intelligence: Criminals AI-Cloned Director’s Voice To Pull Off $35M Heist In The U.A.E.

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The fraudsters used “deepfake” voice technology to duplicate the company director’s voice.

In an eerily similar replay of a 2019 incident in which the CEO of a UK-based energy company transferred €220,000 (then about US$243,000) based on a telephonic instruction from a person that sounded like his boss, a UAE bank manager in 2020 paid out $35 million based on deep-faked, AI-cloned calls that he believed were from a client’s CEO. (Forbes)

Modus operandi

In early 2020, criminals used AI-assisted voice cloning technology to simulate the voice of a UAE company director.

Using the cloned voice they then called the company’s bank manager to inform him that the company planned to transfer $35 million for making an acquisition.

The manager, who thought he was speaking to the director, assumed the calls were genuine, given that they were backed up by seemingly innocuous emailed transfer instructions that also included authorization in the name of Martin Zelmer, a lawyer supposedly appointed to oversee the acquisition procedures.

The bank manager executed the transfers for $35 million to bank accounts strewn across the globe, including $400,000 to U.S.-based accounts held by Centennial Bank.

This massive heist was brought to light by Forbes, who discovered a court document in which the U.A.E.’s Dubai Public Prosecution Office has sought American investigators’ help in tracing the $400,000 of stolen funds that went to Centennial Bank accounts.

According to Dubai authorities, as many as 17 people were involved in perpetrating this elaborate fraud.

AI-cloned voice: new “attack vector”

Jake Moore, a former police officer with the Dorset Police Department in the U.K. and now a cybersecurity expert at security company ESET told Forbes that AI voice cloning was a new type of attack vector that may be increasingly used by fraudsters and that “more businesses are likely to fall victim to very convincing conversations.”

Therefore, be warned if you have your voice recordings available online on social media or other sites such as YouTube.

Related Story: A New AI App Could ‘Deepfake’ Your Profile Pic Into A Porn Video

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