AI Voice Cloning Scams: How to Protect Your Firm

As artificial intelligence continues to evolve at breakneck speed, the introduction of OpenAI’s ChatGPT served as a milestone, igniting the proliferation of increasingly advanced tools, including AI voice cloning software. While this technology has existed for some time, recent developments have brought it to unprecedented accuracy. Its ability to capture and emulate human voices is now more precise and powerful than ever, reshaping our understanding of AI’s potential and catapulting us into a fascinating and anxiety-inducing future.

This form of artificial intelligence (AI), known as DeepFake, allows anyone to mimic voices and create realistic images and videos of people that are fabricated. By harnessing specialized AI-powered voice cloning tools, cybercriminals can replicate the voice of any individual. Shockingly, they can achieve this with a short audio snippet of the targeted person’s voice.

So, we find ourselves in an era where technology not only assists us but also presents the potential to deceive us with near-perfect replicas of voices and faces alike. As we venture deeper into this intriguing yet unnerving world of AI, it’s essential to acknowledge the profound implications of these technologies. Most AI experts agree these fraudulent but deceivingly accurate attempts at stealing one’s voice and visual identity will only become more prevalent. This digital doppelganger dilemma begs the question: What could possibly go wrong?

AI Voice Scams On the Rise

AI voice cloning scams have become alarmingly common in the past year, with fake kidnapping calls being the most common and successful form of deception.

The calls come in from an unknown caller ID (though even cellphone numbers are easy to spoof these days). A voice comes on that sounds exactly like your loved one saying they’re in trouble. Then they get cut off, you hear a scream, and another voice comes on the line demanding ransom − or else. 

USA Today – The call is coming from inside the internet: AI voice scams on the rise with cloning tech

These new scare tactics work; scammers stole over $11 million in 2022 using AI voice cloning technology.

How Do Scammers Capture My Voice?

There are many methods for capturing a person’s voice and manipulating it with AI, making it an area ripe for exploitation. Here are a few prevalent examples:

Social media platforms like Facebook or TikTok can be a goldmine for voice cloners, with even brief, 10-second videos of your voice providing sufficient material for manipulation.

Podcasts, with their widespread popularity and the vast amount of audio samples available, have unfortunately become a prime target for exploitation. (Listen to our podcast about AI voice cloning here.)

Telephone calls can also present a hazard; answering a few seemingly harmless questions (from a scammer) can lead to your voice being captured.

Even AI voice assistants, such as Amazon Alexa, aren’t immune. Although hacking is rare, it does occur, further demonstrating the vulnerability of voice data.

Maintaining an active presence online, especially on social media, inevitably leads to the potential capture of your voice if even a little audio snippet exists anywhere on the internet. This fact emphasizes the importance of awareness and vigilance. If a familiar voice over the phone is suddenly asking for money, remember it might not be the person you think it is. Understanding these potential scams is our best defense in this age of AI voice cloning.

Never underestimate the extents to which fraudsters are willing to go to maximize the likelihood of their plans succeeding. They will meticulously research your inner circle, obtain their phone numbers, and now even attempt to replicate their voices.

Threats to Keep on Your Radar

Stay vigilant and maintain proactive security measures by staying informed about the following AI voice threats:

AI-Based Vishing (AI Voice Cloning): Vishing or voice phishing is a type of cybercrime that utilizes phone calls to steal confidential information and is done through social engineering. Numerous types of vishing attacks have been around for decades. However, the landscape has now evolved to include AI-based vishing, essentially the same threat amplified by AI voice cloning. Cybercriminals leverage this technology to masquerade as trusted organizations, luring unsuspecting individuals into divulging confidential information, including passwords, credit card specifics, or social security information. The uncannily human-like speech produced by AI amplifies such attacks’ effectiveness.

Voice Spoofing: This technique involves modifying the pitch, tone, accent, or other vocal characteristics to imitate a specific person or create a different identity altogether. Cybercriminals can leverage voice spoofing to generate counterfeit voice commands or deceptive voice messages, tricking personnel into carrying out unauthorized activities or gaining illicit access to systems.

Exploitation of Voice-Activated Devices: As voice AI hinges on internet connectivity and data transmission, voice-activated devices are potential cyberattack bullseyes. Attackers might attempt to manipulate weaknesses in these devices to seize control or secretly listen in on sensitive dialogues and capture your voice ID in the process.

Eavesdropping via Voice Assistants: Voice assistants are continually attuned to ambient sounds, listening for their activation keywords. While designed with privacy in mind, there have been instances where these devices have unintentionally recorded conversations, leading to potential privacy infringements. Cybercriminals could misappropriate such recordings for blackmail, identity theft, or other malevolent purposes.

Staying Safe in the Age of AI Scams

Specific measures can be implemented to alleviate AI voice scams risks.

  1. Education and Training: Foster awareness among your team members through training programs to familiarize them with the risks associated with voice AI and cultivate safe practices. Promote caution when sharing sensitive information via calls, even if the call seems to originate from a reputable source. To verify a caller’s legitimacy, call them back using their verified phone number or initiate a video call. However, it’s important to note that impersonation can also occur during video calls. Learn about how you can identify a deepfake video call here.
  2. Establish a code word with your team. By having a unique, shared phrase, you can quickly verify the identity of a caller.
  3. Secure Configuration of Voice Assistants: To ensure the security of your voice assistants, set robust passwords, activate two-factor authentication, and deactivate unneeded features. Stay on top of firmware and application updates for your voice assistants to address any potential security loopholes.
  4. Network and Device Security: Bolster your organization’s overall security landscape by employing comprehensive network security measures, including firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and secure Wi-Fi networks. Ensure that all devices connected to your network, including voice-activated ones, are appropriately safeguarded and regularly updated.
  5. Voice Privacy Controls: Regularly examine and adjust privacy settings related to voice AI devices and applications. Minimize unnecessary data sharing and routinely inspect permissions granted to voice platforms.
  6. Protect Your Identity: What information do strangers have access to when they visit your social media profiles? If you’re unsure, it might be time to look at your privacy settings. You don’t want visitors to have access to information that they can take advantage of. Consider implementing dark web monitoring tools to identify possible data breaches, such as your phone number, email, or passwords. At Tech Guru, we provide this as an inclusive service within our monthly subscription package.

The Double-edged Sword of AI Voice Innovation

As AI voice technology evolves, it is revolutionizing various industries with remarkable benefits such as streamlined customer service, advanced search capabilities, 24/7 chatbot support, and automated secretarial duties. However, this technology also ushers fresh avenues for cybercrime. As we navigate this dual-edged sword of innovation, it’s essential to prioritize education on the potential risks while embracing robust security measures. With informed awareness, proactive strategies, and necessary precautions, we can tap into the power of AI voice technology, leveraging its immense potential without succumbing to its inherent threats.

Delve into your accounting firm’s cybersecurity landscape with our comprehensive security assessment below. It not only helps you understand your current security stance but also enables you to ensure compliance with evolving industry regulations and standards. All of our statements adhere to IRS Publication 4557, ‘Safeguarding Taxpayer Data,’ which is the standard for the financial industry.