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deepfake videos defraud companies

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Concerns about deepfake videos have so far focused on politics, but businesses and other organizations are increasingly at risk, a growing number of observes believe.

Deep fake videos show people doing things they never did or saying words they never said. The videos can dub words on speakers or replace an image of someone’s head with another person.

Crisis communications experts worry that deepfake videos pose a serious reputational risk to brands. Pranksters or criminals could create a deepfake video of a corporate CEO making outrageous or controversial statements or committing illegal or unethical acts. The video could spread virally on social media before the company responds.

Observers cite two reasons for their growing concern.  Believable fake videos are becoming easier to produce because of advances in video-editing technology. In addition, more people are collaborating remotely through online video as they work from home during the Covid-19 pandemic, creating an abundance of audio and video that fraudsters can use to create deep fakes. Video communications between business executives and employees often have serious security vulnerabilities.

A Potent Tool for Committing Fraud

Manipulated video and audio recordings also offer a sophisticated tool to criminals defrauding companies.

A CEO of a U.K.-based energy firm thought he had received a phone message from the chief executive of his company’s parent firm, directing him to immediately send €220,000 ($243,000) to a Hungarian supplier. But criminals had used artificial intelligence to mimic the chief executive’s voice, according to The Wall Street Journal. Law enforcement and AI experts fear deepfake videos will soon offer a far more potent tool than faked audio alone.

“Businesses around the globe have already lost money, reputations, and hard-won brand strength due to deepfakes,” Jon Mendoza, Global Chief Information Security Officer at Technologent, told the Real Media Report.

A range of organizations are pursuing ways to spot and counter deepfake videos. For instance, the Content Authenticity Initiative lead by top technology companies aims to create industry-wide standards for digital authenticity verification. However, detection has become an arms race against criminals. Organizations cannot guard against deepfakes with technology initiatives alone.

The Need for More Distrust

Protection also requires teaching employees to be skeptical, even distrusting, of messages from colleagues and especially superiors. That may be difficult in hierarchical organizations where employees are trained to please their bosses.

Internal communications take a leading role in empowering employees to question and delay requests that seem dangerous or out of the ordinary.

“Deepfake fraud is a new, potentially devastating issue for businesses,” warns Ian Cruxton, CSO of Callsign, an identity fraud, authorization, and authentication company. “With the sheer amount of jobs requiring their employees to be online, it’s critical that workforces are educated and provided with the tools to detect, refute, and protect against deepfake attacks and fraudulent activity taking place in the workplace.”

It’s also crucial for organizations to employ a media monitoring service that can promptly inform them when their names are mentioned online by sending automated email alerts. PR personnel can then take immediate steps to refute deepfake videos or other types of disinformation. Swift decision-making is critical.There’s no time for assembling a crisis team or for arranging meetings with many participants.

Bottom Line: Besides using deepfake videos to ruin corporate reputations, fraudsters can create fake videos to defraud large sums from corporations. Educating employees about the ploys and giving them power to refuse unusual requests from superiors can thwart the schemes.

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