A company lost $25.6 million because of a deepfaked conference call

A multinational corporation in Hong Kong fell victim to a sophisticated scam, losing HK$200 million (US$25.6 million) as employees at its local branch were deceived by deepfake technology.

The perpetrators utilized deepfake techniques to digitally recreate the company’s chief financial officer in a video conference, instructing fraudulent money transfers.

Remarkably, all participants on the video calls, except the targeted employee, were fabricated representations generated through deepfake technology, using publicly available video and audio footage.

This incident, unprecedented in Hong Kong, prompted the police to issue a warning. Acting senior superintendent Baron Chan Shun-ching highlighted the uniqueness of the case, emphasizing its substantial financial impact. The police refrained from disclosing specifics about the affected company or its employees.

The fraudulent scheme commenced when an employee in the finance department received a phishing message in mid-January, purportedly from the company’s UK-based CFO, urging the execution of a confidential transaction.

Despite initial skepticism, the employee succumbed to the ruse after participating in a group video conference where the CFO and seemingly genuine colleagues were present.

During the meeting, the fabricated participants convincingly resembled and sounded like real individuals known to the victim. Following instructions given in the video call, the targeted employee unwittingly transferred HK$200 million to five different Hong Kong bank accounts. The deception persisted for about a week until the employee, upon inquiry with the company’s headquarters, discovered the scam.

An ensuing police investigation unveiled that scammers had digitally recreated the meeting participants by manipulating publicly accessible video and audio footage. Additionally, it was revealed that the perpetrators attempted to employ the same multi-person video call tactic on another branch employee.

As of now, the police continue their investigation, and no arrests have been made in connection to this elaborate and unprecedented deepfake-driven financial scam.

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