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AIs imitate voices perfectly - beware of approaching waves of scams

AIs imitate voices perfectly - beware of approaching waves of scams

[13:16 Thu,9.March 2023   by ]    

It has been feared for some time - but now the time has come: the first telephone tricksters are using voice AIs to get old people to transfer money to the scammers by pretending that one of their children or grandchildren is in an emergency. Of course, this works much better with a voice that really sounds like that of the (grand)child - and that is exactly what is possible with modern voice AIs that can deceptively imitate any voice. Only audio recordings a few seconds long (3-30s depending on the AI used) of a voice is enough to deceptively imitate it. Finding such voice recordings is no problem nowadays: on YouTube, TikTok or other portals, it is easy to find videos including voice recordings of very many people. Social networks such as Facebook or Instagram can also be used to quickly locate older relatives and their phone numbers.


The Washington Post now reports on just such a case, in which parents received a call from an alleged lawyer who told them that their 39-year-old son had killed someone in a car accident, was now in jail and needed money for his legal fees. The apparent lawyer then got the son on the phone, who convincingly assured his parents that he loved them and now urgently needed ,000 for court.

Which AI the scammers used is not known, but there are several online services such as ElevenLabs and Respeecher that offer voice cloning via AI - sometimes with more, sometimes with less safeguards to prevent abuse. These can be used for such a scam, and prosecuting those responsible for such a scam is difficult - they are usually located in other countries and could only be identified with the help of local authorities (if at all).

Telephone banking adé?

Also troubling is the attempt by a reporter who successfully logged into his account using his AI-synthesized voice via phone banking. This means that an authentication system using only date of birth and authentication by voice - "Please say my voice is my password" - is now insufficient. The new AIs mimic voices well enough to fool banks& voice verification systems. Since voice records as well as birth dates of many people can be easily found online, such safeguards are now easy to circumvent.

Until now, a voice sample was considered to be an extremely secure means of identification - statements such as those made by Bank of Scotland (similar statements can be found at many other banks) are now obsolete: "Your voice is unique. To use Voice ID, we record your voice (over the phone) when you say a certain phrase.... Voice ID compares more features in your voice than the human ear can detect. We can find over 100 unique features in your voice. When you call us in the future, we will compare the Voice ID voiceprint to your voice. This is how we know we are talking to you. Using Voice ID to make Telephone Banking calls is fast, easy and secure."

OpenAI VALL-E Voice AI.

Such a Voice ID algorithm, which can analyze and verify a voice, is now outwitted by a voice AI, which can equally well decode voices with all their characteristics, but can also deceptively simulate the voice on the basis of this data. No case is yet known in which phone banking by voice AI has actually been hacked, but technologically, authentication by voice (at least without additional strong security measures) is now obsolete.

In the future

Using such simulated voices, much more targeted scams are of course possible with a little more effort - for example, a company&s accounting department could be tricked into transferring larger sums of money by the boss calling them, or similar. There are no limits to creativity when it comes to the possible applications of voice fakes on a large or small scale - especially if money can be earned or a person can be discredited. We will probably see a lot more "interesting" in this direction.

A first warning was the events from the end of January 2023, when users of the notorious internet platform 4chan used Elvenlabs voice AI to produce audio fakes with the voices of well-known personalities. Among other things, clips circulated in which actress Emma Watson reads an excerpt from Adolf Hitler&s "Mein Kampf" and U.S. President Joe Biden announces that he will send troops to Ukraine - some of which were also animated somewhat realistically via DeepFake as a video.

Protection against imitation of one&s own voice?

For the very near future, this development means that mere voices will no longer be sufficient to identify a person. To avoid having one&s voice imitated, one would have to try not to publicly leave any of one&s own voice recordings that could be used for voice sampling. But that would mean not posting any video clips of speaking on the web at all, or preventing such recordings from being made by someone else - an impossible undertaking in many cases. Many people&s (video) and voice recordings can already be found on the web and can no longer be deleted - so the child has already fallen into the well. And since even a few seconds / a few words of voice recordings are enough, even that might not be enough - just a telephone conversation, in which one answers the caller with a few sentences, could produce enough voice material for simulation.


Distrust every voice?

This means that from now on one should distrust any audio recording of a voice - or even an exchange of words in real time - if what is said in any way suggests fraud or is unusual, unless the call actually comes from the phone number matching the person or can be otherwise authenticated. Paranoid distrust as a basic attitude - an unattractive prospect. And in the social context, of course, this also applies: from now on, no pure audio recording of a known personality is to be trusted unless its authenticity can be clearly verified.

Link more infos at bei www.washingtonpost.com

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