A Hong Kong-based multinational firm fell victim to deepfake technology, resulting in a staggering loss of HK$200 million (£20 million). Hong Kong police are investigating the case, wherein an employee, deceived by digitally recreated versions of company executives, unwittingly transferred the funds to fraudulent accounts.

Hong Kong police have launched an investigation into a sophisticated deepfake scam that led to a major financial loss for an undisclosed multinational company. An employee, believing she was engaging in a video conference with senior officers, ended up transferring HK$200 million of her company’s funds to the scammers.

The police force received a report from the deceived worker on January 29, describing how she fell victim to a deepfake video conference. The impersonators convincingly posed as high-ranking company officials, instructing the clerk to transfer the substantial sum to designated bank accounts.

The case has been classified as “obtaining property by deception,” and the cybercrime unit is leading the ongoing investigations. As of now, no arrests have been made in connection with the incident.

Acting senior superintendent Baron Chan, quoted by Hong Kong’s public broadcaster RTHK, speculated that the fraudster employed artificial intelligence to enhance the deception. The fraudulent video conference, featuring lifelike renditions of real individuals, led the clerk to make 15 transactions totaling HK$200 million.

Chan explained, “[The fraudster] invited the informant [clerk] to a video conference that would have many participants. Because the people in the video conference looked like the real people, the informant … made 15 transactions as instructed to five local bank accounts.”

The scam unfolded with the clerk receiving a message from the company’s chief financial officer, emphasizing the need for confidential transactions. Only after completing the transfers did the employee realize the fraudulent nature of the call upon contacting the company’s head office.

Highlighting the advanced tactics employed by scammers, Chan warned that fraudsters are now utilizing AI technology in online meetings, urging people to remain vigilant even in gatherings with numerous participants.

This incident adds to the growing concern surrounding AI-generated deepfakes, with instances ranging from fake explicit content targeting celebrities to the manipulation of political figures’ voices. The UK’s cybersecurity agency has previously raised alarms about the increasing difficulty in identifying phishing messages, underscoring the need for heightened awareness in the face of evolving cyber threats.

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