An Artificial-Intelligence First: Voice-Mimicking Software Reportedly Used In A Major Theft

from WaPo

Thieves used voice-mimicking software to imitate a company executive’s speech and dupe his subordinate into sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to a secret account, the company’s insurer said, in a remarkable case that some researchers are calling one of the world’s first publicly reported artificial-intelligence heists.

The managing director of a British energy company, believing his boss was on the phone, followed orders one Friday afternoon in March to wire more than $240,000 to an account in Hungary, said representatives from the French insurance giant Euler Hermes, which declined to name the company.

The request was “rather strange,” the director noted later in an email, but the voice was so lifelike that he felt he had no choice but to comply. The insurer, whose case was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, provided new details on the theft to The Washington Post on Wednesday, including an email from the employee tricked by what the insurer is referring to internally as “the false Johannes.”

More here.

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4 Comments

  1. The exponential growth and innovation in the technological field has been remarkable but with these advancements comes the potential for criminal usage. As seen in this article, the fast-paced growth of voice mimicking technology which was released to society, allowed criminals to take advantage of individuals and companies. Unfortunately, criminals will always be attempting to manipulate and misinform individuals to take advantage of them or their property. Even though we have many positives from these technological advancements, the negatives are still noticed. The fear is prevalent with technology being used in a negative way, but these advancements can be significant in the future developments of our world.
    The awareness and effort put into thwarting criminal activity is of the utmost importance especially when it comes to technology. Besides an individual’s efforts to avoid and not fall for a criminal’s trick, a company must take at the least this much time and effort to avoid an even bigger consequence. A company’s technological investment is crucial to their growth and success, but this must include their cyber security and efforts to steer clear of cyber-attacks. Also, the company who releases the innovative technology is not responsible for how individuals will use it but should be aware of the consequences said product can have on the society.
    This article was an interesting read and brought to light a few subtle points to how new technology is viewed by some. The relationship between people and technology can be strained by the loss of public trust, especially by difficulties of communication which are vulnerable and manipulated. An important consideration for the future of technology and how we perceive, recognize and use it, will depend on the regulations set in place to assist in its safe usage. Even with regulations in place, criminals will always be attempting to exploit individuals and companies. The best way to counter these attempts is to have protocols in place to minimize losses and to better understand the ways criminals are taking advantage of certain technology.

  2. I am not surprised when I was reading this article that this is an issue we are facing in this day and age. Companies keep making technological advances that are supposed to be improving everyone’s life. I am a big fan of technology making things more convenient and improving life. I do feel that some things just need to be left alone though. Shakespeare wrote a quote and said, “Can one desire too much of a good thing?” Which in other words something good can eventually become bad if it is used too much. When I think about that quote technology is a perfect example of that. Jobs are being taken away because technology is replacing actual humans. For businesses, it is a good thing because it is making it a cheaper option. As well as making it less of a hassle since they don’t have to hire too many people. We are allowing technology to replace the simplest things in life rather than just using it as a tool.
    This article is just proving to us as technology advances so are people in the ways they commit crimes. For me, while reading this it really gets me thinking about what else can be done if this type of technology is available freely to everyone. It honestly scares me because the possibilities are endless. Someone was able to mimic an executive’s voice to steal money and as in the article got away with it. Going beyond just stealing money now we have the question of what if someone mimics the president to send a hit on a country like Iran when war tensions are high. Not only do we have to worry about our military defenses but our own personal data. I call my bank all the time when I need to, and they always asked me to verify myself over the phone. Now I have to worry about someone hacking into my calls listening in to then steal money from me or even steal my identity. Criminals will use any way possible to get what they need done and technology is just making it simpler to get it done. Now technology is being made to combat all the issues that arise from being able to mimic a voice, but criminals are just going to keep getting smarter and find ways around.
    If businesses are allowed to create technology like this where do we draw the line? I once thought that things like “The Matrix” or “I, Robot” were figments of the writer’s imagination but now it seems closer to our reality. This technology is able to talk and learn a human’s way of speaking almost perfectly. Companies that work with artificial intelligence have already built robots that look and move very similarly to humans. All that is left to do is put this technology with these robots and they will be very similar to us. In the movies I’ve seen with AI they always turn out not so good. I don’t think we will get to the point of exactly what the movies have shown us, but I do think it will eventually become a really big issue for us. We need to start remembering to use these technologies as a tool when it is needed so a great thing doesn’t go bad.

  3. Once again, this article is an example of the scary potential technology will have in the future. As people become more tech savvy, it only expands the horizons and the capabilities for employment on the public. Especially in terms of artificial intelligence, it is a whole new frontier that hopefully we won’t have to struggle with too much. Especially with it becoming so commonplace in our society, it’s beginning to take place in many aspects of our technology. In the case of the article, people have manipulated its capabilities to trick others to do unlawful deeds. Artificial intelligence can also affect the lives of workers. In certain manufacturing plants, AI has taken over many of the functioning aspects of machinery, resulting in more accurate, efficient machinery. This better and cheaper workforce pushes working class people out of jobs. The presence of AI purposely affects the lives of society and inadvertently, as shown in the past two examples. However, it is important to remember that humans are the ones who put the AI to use, so AI is simply a tool to be used at the disposal of humans, for good and for bad. Oppositely, AI has its share of positive benefits to society, that being with the products we use every day. Our cellphones possess AI that allow our phones to process at high functionality, as well as in self-driving cars. As I said before, AI and technology can be used as a tool by man. If we apply it to our already existing technology, it pushes our functionality higher. At the same time however, it also pushes our dependency on the technology. The more we become accustomed to it, the harder it will become to live without it. As discussed in previous blogs, it is commonplace in our lives too. Have you ever been on a social site and noticed an ad for something you were just looking at? That is the work of artificial intelligence, which is gathering data about you to give an almost human like response. Technology and AI has melded with our society so deeply that if we are not careful about the role it plays, we will become victim to the power is possesses.

  4. This article was very alarming and enlightening at the same time. Sometimes it amazes me how quickly technology is advancing. We have entered a new world where technology helps us in our everyday lives. However, we now have to worry how criminals will use technology in scams. As folks are gearing up to blame the tech companies, I wonder if they are truly to blame, or if we should just be more aware and upgrade our standard routines and practices.
    Theft and scams utilizing some form of technology are becoming a common theme these days. The most common that we hear about is the database breach at a big corporation that leads to private information being stolen and possibly used for identity theft or credit card hacks. When these actions started to become more prevalent, IT departments began implementing new protocols. A friend that works in IT told me that a company he worked for had people around the clock whose sole job it was to monitor the computer systems for potential incoming threats. However now the criminals are not directly targeting only the computer systems.
    As the article has shown, with the times and technology advancing so are the criminals. They are proactive in using new resources to meet their goals. Maybe this means that we need to be just as active to stop them in their tracks. I agree that using an AI voice to mimic a superior can be tricky for an employee. However, we can implement company procedures that do not allow an employee to disclose information or transfer money without a multitude of interaction, or maybe passcodes. I am not sure that I have all of the answers about how the procedures should be set, but I am sure that we need to make it a priority to stay on top of the latest technology and stay one step ahead of the criminals. It’s about being proactive rather than reactive.

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