Voice deepfakes are calling – here’s what they are and how to avoid getting scammed
You have just returned home after a long day at work and are about to sit down for dinner when suddenly your phone starts buzzing. On the other end is a loved one, perhaps a parent, a child or a childhood friend, begging you to send them money immediately.
You ask them questions, attempting to understand. There is something off about their answers, which are either vague or out of character, and sometimes there is a peculiar delay, almost as though they were thinking a little too slowly. Yet, you are certain that it is definitely your loved one speaking: That is their voice you hear, and the caller ID is showing their number. Chalking up the strangeness to their panic, you dutifully send the money to the bank account they provide you.
The next day, you call them back to make sure everything is all right. Your loved one has no idea what you are talking about. That is because they never called you – you have been tricked by technology: a voice deepfake. Thousands of people were scammed this way in 2022.
As computer security researchers, we see that ongoing advancements in deep-learning algorithms, audio editing and engineering, and synthetic voice generation have meant that it is increasingly possible to convincingly simulate a person’s voice.
Even worse, chatbots like ChatGPT are starting to generate realistic scripts with adaptive real-time responses. By combining these technologies with voice generation, a deepfake goes from being a static recording to a live, lifelike avatar that can convincingly have a phone conversation.
Crafting a compelling high-quality deepfake, whether video or audio, is not the easiest thing to do. It requires a wealth of artistic and technical skills, powerful hardware and a fairly hefty sample of the target voice.
There are a growing number of services offering to produce moderate- to high-quality voice clones for a fee, and some voice deepfake tools need a sample of only a minute long, or even just a few seconds, to produce a voice clone that could be convincing enough to fool someone. However, to convince a loved one – for example, to use in an impersonation scam – it would likely take a significantly larger sample.
With all that said, we at the DeFake Project of the Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Mississippi and Michigan State University, and other researchers are working hard to be able to detect video and audio deepfakes and limit the harm they cause. There are also straightforward and everyday actions that you can take to protect yourself.
For starters, voice phishing, or “vishing,” scams like the one described above are the most likely voice deepfakes you might encounter in everyday life, both at work and at home. In 2019, an energy firm was scammed out of US$243,000 when criminals simulated the voice of its parent company’s boss to order an employee to transfer funds to a supplier. In 2022, people were swindled out of an estimated $11 million by simulated voices, including of close, personal connections.
What can you do?
Be mindful of unexpected calls, even from people you know well. This is not to say you need to schedule every call, but it helps to at least email or text message ahead. Also, do not rely on caller ID, since that can be faked, too. For example, if you receive a call from someone claiming to represent your bank, hang up and call the bank directly to confirm the call’s legitimacy. Be sure to use the number you have written down, saved in your contacts list or that you can find on Google.
Additionally, be careful with your personal identifying information, like your Social Security number, home address, birth date, phone number, middle name and even the names of your children and pets. Scammers can use this information to impersonate you to banks, realtors and others, enriching themselves while bankrupting you or destroying your credit.
Here is another piece of advice: know yourself. Specifically, know your intellectual and emotional biases and vulnerabilities. This is good life advice in general, but it is key to protect yourself from being manipulated. Scammers typically seek to suss out and then prey on your financial anxieties, your political attachments or other inclinations, whatever those may be.
This alertness is also a decent defense against disinformation using voice deepfakes. Deepfakes can be used to take advantage of your confirmation bias, or what you are inclined to believe about someone.
If you hear an important person, whether from your community or the government, saying something that either seems very uncharacteristic for them or confirms your worst suspicions of them, you would be wise to be wary.
Huge reveal from gaming company Rockstar shows GTA VI
Rockstar Games surprises fans with an early release of the Grand Theft Auto VI trailer following an online leak.
In a stunning reveal, the highly anticipated “Grand Theft Auto VI” trailer has finally hit the gaming community, and it’s not holding back on the mayhem. Rockstar Games, known for pushing boundaries, seems to have outdone itself this time, showcasing a virtual world teeming with criminal escapades and high-stakes action.
Rockstar embraced a leak and unveiled the official trailer ahead of schedule. Fans are speculating on new features and plot twists, creating a buzz on social media.
Now, the gaming community eagerly dissects every frame of the trailer, searching for additional details beyond the leaked material.
The trailer opens with a breathtaking skyline of the fictional metropolis, setting the stage for a narrative that promises to be as immersive as it is controversial. From high-speed car chases to pulse-pounding shootouts, the snippets offer a glimpse into the sheer scale and detail the developers have poured into the latest installment. Fans are already dissecting every frame, eagerly speculating on the storyline and characters that will drive this blockbuster game.
Google’s AI bot faces delay
Google has decided to delay the launch of its highly-anticipated conversational AI bot, codenamed ‘Gemini,’ until January.
Originally scheduled for release in December, the postponement comes as the tech giant strives for perfection in its new AI creation.
The decision to delay ‘Gemini’ is reportedly due to the need for additional testing and fine-tuning of the AI’s conversational abilities.
Google aims to ensure that ‘Gemini’ offers a seamless and engaging user experience, and the extra time will be dedicated to achieving this goal. #featured
Spotify faces downturn as user base declines
Music streaming giant Spotify is now grappling with a significant decline in its user base.
Analysts point to a combination of factors contributing to Spotify’s woes. One major concern is the rise of alternative platforms offering unique features and a diverse range of content, enticing users away from the once-unrivalled Spotify.
Additionally, controversies surrounding artist compensation and royalty disputes have tarnished the platform’s image, leading to growing discontent among both musicians and listeners.
The company’s stock prices have experienced a notable dip in response to the user base decline. Spotify now faces the challenging task of regaining its footing in an increasingly competitive market.
Industry experts are closely watching how the platform plans to innovate and address the issues that have led to its recent setbacks.
Spotify has also announced plans to lay off 17% of its global workforce. The decision comes as the company aims to optimise resources and focus on key business priorities in the face of evolving market dynamics.
The restructuring will impact various departments, including engineering and customer support, as Spotify looks to enhance efficiency and adapt to changing industry trends. The move is expected to generate cost savings for the company while allowing it to allocate resources to areas crucial for future growth.
Despite the layoffs, Spotify remains committed to delivering a seamless music streaming experience for its users and fostering innovation within the industry. The company has emphasised that these changes are part of a broader strategy to ensure sustained success and adaptability in an ever-evolving digital landscape.
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