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Deepfake: Have We Created a New Criminal

A multinational company has been defrauded of nearly $26 million in a scam based on “deepfake” technology, which creates videos using artificial intelligence, Hong Kong police announced today.

In what was one of the first cases in the city, the fraudsters used technology to impersonate one of the company’s staff.

A “deepfake” is a video or audio recording produced or modified using artificial intelligence. The technique has the potential to generate disinformation, create controversy, or even start a war as it can be used to make people say things they have never said, and with the technology being so good it is virtually impossible to detect that the imposter is a fake.

An employee of a company in a Chinese financial centre received “video conference calls from someone posing as a senior executive of his company and asking him to transfer money to certain bank accounts,” police said.

The Hong Kong Police received an incident report on the 29th of January, by which time about $26 million (€24 million) had already been lost through 15 transfers.

“Investigations are still ongoing and no arrests have been made so far,” the police said, without naming the company.

According to Hong Kong media, the victim worked in the finance department and the criminals impersonated the company’s chief financial officer, who is based in the United Kingdom.

A senior police official, Baron Chan, said the video conference involved several participants, but all but the victim were pretending to be other people.

“The criminals found publicly available videos and audio on the YouTube network and then used ‘deepfake’ technology to imitate the voices… to deceive the victim and instruct him to proceed with the transfers.

Concluding, the police also confirmed that the deepfake videos were pre-recorded and did not involve any additional dialogue or interaction with the victim.

Samantha Gannon

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