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Thieves stole $356k by using AI to mimic a CEO’s voice

(Source: Getty)

Your boss calls and asks you to wire some money to an offshore bank account you’ve never heard of before.

It’s a weird request, but who are you to question the boss’ orders?

Only: the person on the phone wasn’t your boss.

We now live in a world where this exists: thieves managed to use voice-mimicking software to convince the managing director of a British energy company to wire hundreds of thousands of dollars to a secret account.

French insurance giant Euler Hermes declined to name the UK-based energy company.

Believing that he was speaking to his boss, the CEO of the company’s German parent company, the managing director wired more than €220,000 (A$356,144) to a bank account in Hungary one Friday afternoon in March.

The director later noted in the email that the request was “rather strange”, but the voice seemed so legitimate that he felt no choice but to comply, Washington Post reported.

This voice synthesis software is being developed by Silicon Valley firms and AI startups, but synthetic audio and AI-generated fake videos are sparking growing anxieties over privacy, security and the potential for cyber criminals to exploit this kind of computerised manipulative software.

“Criminals are going to use whatever tools enable them to achieve their objectives cheapest,” Andrew Grotto told Washington Post. Grotto is a fellow at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center and served as a senior director for cybersecurity policy at the White House during the Obama and Trump administrations.

“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.”

The Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit will take place on the 26th September 2019 at the Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney. Check out the full line-up of speakers and agenda here.

The inaugural Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit will launch on September 26 in Sydney's Shangri-La.