Deepfake Attacks: The Biggest Social Engineering Threat 

Publication date: Feb 29, 2024

Last Published: Mar 15, 2024

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Read Time : 5 minutes

Organizations face an array of threats designed to exploit human psychology and technological vulnerabilities. For decades, cybercriminals have skillfully faked emails, documents, and even access badges to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information. However, the recent rapid advancements in generative artificial intelligence (AI) have introduced a new era of cyber deception: deepfake attacks.  

What Are Deepfake Attacks? 

Deepfake techniques allow attackers to generate high-quality text, audio, and even video at a never-before-seen scale, presenting serious challenges for those who are likely to be exposed to them as part of complex and convincing campaigns.  

In the past, one telltale sign of a scam email was poor grammar. Remember those pleas written in broken English and sent by an alleged Nigerian prince offering riches? Well, those days are numbered. Even cybercriminals from non-English speaking countries can now generate convincing fake emails using tools like ChatGPT and other language models. Just take a look at the following example: 

ChatGPT Image of deepfake attacks

But AI text generation is just the tip of the iceberg. Attackers can use readily available speech synthesis AI tools like those provided by ElevenLabs to clone someone’s voice and use it to make fraudulent phone calls. Imagine receiving a voice message, allegedly from the CEO of your company, urgently requesting sensitive financial information or authorizing large payments. The caller ID matches, the voice sounds uncannily familiar, but the person on the other side is a complete stranger.  

Scams like this have become so common recently that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a consumer alert to help individuals and businesses recognize and protect themselves against these sophisticated schemes.  

“Artificial intelligence is no longer a far-fetched idea out of a sci-fi movie. We’re living with it, here and now,” states the alert. “A scammer could use AI to clone the voice of your loved one. All he needs is a short audio clip of your family member’s voice — which he could get from content posted online — and a voice-cloning program.” 

As if AI voice-cloning capabilities weren’t scary enough, deepfake technology also enables convincing video manipulations. Just take the recent case of a multinational company losing HK$200 million ($26 million) after being tricked by a fake group video call. Criminals painstakingly created deepfakes of the company’s CFO and other key personnel. In this deceptive conference call, an employee was instructed to initiate multiple large transfers. 

As you can see, the destructive potential of deepfake attacks is already a major threat, and they’re only becoming more convincing. That’s why organizations can’t afford to wait; the rapid implementation of safeguards against deepfake scams, as described in the next section of this article, is a pressing necessity. 

How to Protect Against Deepfake Attacks? 

While deepfake attacks may seem intimidating due to their increasing sophistication, individuals and organizations can protect themselves. By implementing a combination of technological safeguards and heightened awareness, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to these manipulative scams. Here are some key strategies: 

  • Extreme caution with requests for money/access: Treat any unexpected request for funds, sensitive data, or access to restricted systems with skepticism. Even if it appears to come from a trusted source, remember that cybercriminals are adept at crafting messages that mimic legitimate requests.  
  • Verify requests through a second channel: Always double-check the authenticity of requests for money or sensitive actions by using an independent verification method. If you receive a suspicious or unexpected request, don’t use the contact information provided in the message. Instead, reach out through a known and trusted channel, preferably in person or via a direct phone line you have previously used. 
  • Educate and train your team: Awareness is a powerful tool against social engineering threats. Regular training sessions for your employees on the latest cybersecurity threats, including deepfake techniques, can prepare them to recognize and respond appropriately to fraudulent attempts. Simulation exercises can be particularly effective in building this critical skill set. 
  • Stay informed of potential scams: Watch out for warnings from organizations like the FTC about trending deepfake scams. Additionally, pay attention to reputable news outlets and technology blogs which often report on evolving cybercrime trends. 
  • Explore AI detection tools: In the arms race against cyber threats, technology offers some powerful tools for defense. Among these are advanced AI detection tools that can identify content generated by artificial intelligence. An example of such a tool is the Hive AI Detector, a browser extension that offers a convenient way to check if text or images have been created by popular generative models.  
  • Report scams to the authorities: If you encounter or fall victim to a deepfake scam, report it at Sharing information about these incidents helps build a defense against future attacks and supports efforts to track and prosecute cybercriminals. 

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Turning the Tide Against Deepfake Attacks  

By exploiting readily available AI tools, criminals can forge dangerously convincing deepfakes designed to manipulate individuals and breach organizations. The potential for these attacks to undermine trust, manipulate perceptions, and inflict financial harm cannot be overstated. However, it is crucial to remember that while the threat is real and evolving, organizations are not defenseless. By adopting a proactive stance, organizations can significantly mitigate the risks posed by deepfake attacks.  

Here at OSIbeyond, we’re committed to helping our clients defend against deepfakes and other emerging threats. Our comprehensive managed cybersecurity services are designed to proactively monitor your systems, protect your data, and educate your workforce on the constantly shifting tactics of cybercriminals. Let us help you stay ahead of these manipulative scams. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn how OSIbeyond can strengthen your organization’s cyber resilience. 

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