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Company lost $25 million after employee was tricked by deepfakes of his coworkers

Company lost $25 million after employee was tricked by deepfakes of his coworkers

It looks like AI scams are getting increasingly sophisticated.

The perils of AI are becoming clearer by the day - particularly how the technology can mimic real people.

So-called 'deepfake' tech has already hit the headlines a heap of times thanks to explicit videos made to look like celebrities without their consent, but a new report showcases how it could be used for a whole new type of crime.

An employee at the Hong Kong branch of an unnamed multinational company was reportedly duped by a sophisticated deepfake scam recently, costing their company around HK$200 million (US$25.6 million).

10'000 Hours / Getty

According to the South China Morning Post, the employee received a message that appeared to be from the company's chief financial officer, based in the UK, and hopped onto a video conference call that he thought was with the company's CEO along with a bunch of other top execs.

It turns out in reality that these were all deepfakes, mimicking both the voices and appearances of the individuals - all sourced from publicly available content.

The instructions on that call reportedly led the employee to make around 15 financial transfers to different accounts, totalling around $25 million - a massive black hole of money that doesn't seem to have been recovered at this point.

Local police said that a couple of other employees were approached in the same way, so it looks like it took multiple tries before the scammers got their mark.

Maksim Akhramenka / Getty

The employee apparently did have moments of doubt, but was convinced by the video conference call - and it took around a week before they got suspicious enough to report the whole situation.

This is pretty scary stuff - many of us doubtless know that we could probably be fooled the same way if we got on a call with someone who looked and sounded like our boss and demanded we do a few tasks.

That said, the police in Hong Kong have issued pretty smart advice as a result - namely, that like any scam-mitigation approach, we should all be very wary when asked to make financial transfers of any kind.

Asking the person some questions to verify their identity might feel awkward, but if it saves you from losing your company $25 million, it's probably worth a little weirdness on a call - and if that fails, getting people to move their heads to the side a bit can make it way more obvious when deepfake tech is being used, as flickering and blurring can often occur.

Featured Image Credit: 10'000 Hours / DjelicS / Getty