AI Voice Imitation – a New Kind of Cybercrime

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AI Voice Imitation – a New Kind of Cybercrime

For years, technology companies have promised that soon consumers would be spending time talking to their computers instead of using other input devices like keyboards and mice. That day has now arrived thanks to technology like Apple Siri and Amazon Alexa, which are able to parse natural spoken language and turn them into actionable commands.

What’s even more amazing is that computers are now talking back to us. Dictation software has been around for a while, but the computerized voices it used always sounded very robotic. Today’s virtual home assistants sound incredibly realistic and are capable of speaking in different languages and accents.

But do we need to be cautious about how much we trust and rely on these speaking machines? One major risk is that cybercriminals are now leveraging voice software to execute different types of attacks. Hackers target millions of users each day, they do not just focus their efforts on high-profile VIPs and large companies, they target anyone who lets them in. In this article, we’ll examine the threat and what can be done about it in the short-term and long-term.

Innovation in Hacking

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Although some hackers are only concerned with causing destruction online, the vast majority of true cybercriminals have a single, simple goal: to make money as quickly and as easily as possible. They are constantly evaluating the landscape, in terms of society and security, to determine where to focus their efforts.

Take for instance the rising trend of ransomware. Thanks in large part to so few people taking the time to create truly strong passwords, these kinds of attacks continue to increase in popularity. It usually involves a hacker planting a virus on a computer or network that is capable of encrypting all of the files on the local hard drive. From there, the criminal extorts a ransom payment from the affected person or organization and may even steal data in the process.

Eventually, cybersecurity professionals will identify methods and products to combat common ransomware attacks. But hackers won’t give up. Instead, they’ll simply shift their approach to something new. Technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence are now helping to solve some of the most complex problems in the world. 

The Evolution of Social Engineering

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When most people picture a hacker, they imagine someone hiding behind a computer screen, mashing away on a keyboard as they jump through networks and crack passwords. In reality, some of the most damaging cyberattacks come about because the victim freely gives away their private information.

How does this happen? The answer is social engineering, a technique where a cybercriminal works to earn a person’s trust in order to execute an attack on them or their larger organization. Until now, social engineering attacks have primarily occurred over the phone or through an email phishing scam.

A typical social engineering attack requires a great deal of time, which has led hackers to look for shortcuts. AI voice technology has proven to be a very valuable tool for them. Recently, criminals used software to imitate the voice of a banking chief executive and convince another high-ranking executive to perform an unapproved funds transfer.

Regular employees can be a target for a while. Some hackers are distributing emails with voicemail messages attached to them. These sound realistic even though they are computer generated and often urge the listener to click on a link or navigate to a webpage. The end result is an attempt at stealing personal information, such as passwords, credit cars, or social security numbers.

Insurance as a Safety Net

The fallout from a cyberattack can be devastating for both the victim and their company or organization. This is especially true in the software-as-a-service industry, where customer data is the most valuable asset. There are specific types of data hackers steal making it vital that your data is protected at all costs in order to maintain a strong corporate reputation.

One tactic that companies have at their disposal is a cybersecurity insurance policy. This functions like most other common forms of insurance and can cover certain types of events like data breaches. The company pays regular premiums and if an incident occurs, they will be paid back for certain damages.

However, cybersecurity insurance should be a last resort for software companies. It’s vital for employees and partners to be trained on best practices so that they know what types of social engineering attacks exist. Then they can defend themselves and keep the organization’s data safe at all times.

Data Security Best Practices

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The internet is a dangerous place with cybercriminals always looking to take advantage of unsuspecting people. That’s why it is so vital to prioritize data security every time you go online, whether it’s for work or a personal activity like shopping or banking.

Always be skeptical when a website asks for your personal information. If you don’t recognize the URL in your browser or feel unsure about clicking on a link, the best advice is to stop and close the window. The same is true if you are on the phone with someone. Even if it sounds like a real human voice, you need to consider the possibility that it is a computer imitation.

When using free public wi-fi, there is a high risk that hackers are able to intercept your traffic and see your activity. For true anonymity, you should access the Internet only via a proxy server or VPN, though even these options aren’t completely foolproof. The basic idea is to hide your IP address. If the bad guys can’t find you, it’s a lot harder to create havoc by stealing your data.

Wrapping Up

Some people are inherently distrustful of anything they see or read on the internet. But if you get them on the phone, they feel like the situation is more secure. Hackers are now taking advantage of this by implementing AI voice imitation into their phishing scams and social engineering attacks.

Computer voice programs are now capable of having entire conversations in a number of different languages and accents. This can make it very hard to tell what is real and what is fake. The best approach is to guard your personal information in every situation until you can verify the voice’s authenticity.

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