Bandits clone executive voice to steal $35 million

A theft of US$ 35 million was carried out from a bank in the United Arab Emirates without bold threats, weapons or malware, but from the cloning of the voice profile of an executive of a large company. In the largest case of its kind ever recorded, a gang used social engineering techniques, involving emails and even the identity of real people, to get a manager to authorize high-value transfers on behalf of someone who didn’t even know what was happening.

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While the identity of the executive whose voice was cloned was not disclosed, as well as his company or the bank that suffered the coup, the details of the case serve as a warning about a new type of performance with high sophistication. Criminals, for example, seemed to know that the institution’s manager had already talked to the executive before and that he seemed to be a frequent customer, who carried out large transactions of this type.

Even before the called spoofed, a series of emails had been exchanged between the two and a lawyer named Martin Zelner, who actually exists. Communication was related to the purchase of a large company, with a series of accounts to be activated when the time was right; it arrived, the transfer of funds was approved, as to the manager everything looked legitimate, and there went the US$ 17 million for the criminals’ hands.

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The theft happened at the beginning of 2019 and it was publicly disclosed now, in a document sent by the Emirates government to the United States, requesting help in tracking down part of the stolen amount. There is little information and the prognosis is not good — the authorities quote a figure of US$ 400 thousand, only, sent to an account in an American bank, while the rest was sprayed in institutions around the world.

The UAE government believes that the crime was the work of a gang with at least 17 people, but did not give further details about the investigation, any suspects or arrests. The agencies responsible for the case did not speak to the press, with the whole situation proceeding under judicial secrecy.

This is the second robbery case involving the use of artificial intelligence to clone voices real, and by far the most profitable. Before him, in 400, scammers managed to steal US$ 400 thousand from a bank in the UK, posing as the CEO of a technology company for the energy sector. At the time, the British authorities cited a greater ease in using sound reproduction systems and a difficulty in dealing with cases of this type that, at the time, were cited as one of the criminal trends for the 21st century.

Source: Forbes

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2022

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