Voice mimicking software imitated a company executive’s speech and tricked an employee into sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to a secret account, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
The managing director of a British energy company, believing that his boss was on the phone, wired more than $240,000 to an account in Hungary this March, French insurance company Euler Hermes told the outlet.
The insurer declined to name the company.
The managing director told the Post in an email that the request was “rather strange,” but the voice was lifelike to the point that he felt he had no choice but to fulfill the request.
Voice synthesis software is an increasing threat to anything that relies on traditional communication, from business deals to discussions between lawmakers.
Together with videos created by artificial intelligence, the potential of “deepfakes" to erode trust in public institutions has triggered alarms for many.
They can also be used for crime, like in this case.
“Criminals are going to use whatever tools enable them to achieve their objectives cheapest,” Andrew Grotto, a fellow at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center and a former senior director for cybersecurity policy at the White House during the Obama and Trump administrations, told the Post. “This is a technology that would have sounded exotic in the extreme 10 years ago, now being well within the range of any lay criminal who's got creativity to spare."
Developers are working to build systems that can detect fake audio and video, but the technology is evolving rapidly.