April 12, 2022

Trick of the tongue

“Words: So innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”
—Nathaniel Hawthorne

This master of American literature sounded prescient when he uttered this quote back in the 19th century. That’s because Hawthorne seems to herald a warning in the 21st century about things he couldn’t have possibly foreseen, such as the dangers of bogus audio in the form of speech deepfakes, which employ artificial intelligence and machine learning to create convincing synthetic audio of a human speaker.

How convincing? Consider that, in a well-reported 2019 AI-powered crime, criminals used deepfake technology to mimic the voice of a company’s chief executive over a phone call where the speaker directed the transfer of around $250,000. The funds were transferred and redistributed, and no suspects were identified. Another widely-reported deepfake-enabled financial heist resulted in the cloning of a bank director’s voice and the illegal transfer of $35 million. 

Before you scoff at the idea of being fooled by a phony voice, take a moment to learn the facts as well as the risks and liabilities that threaten large and small organizations alike. And learn ways that you can help prevent being victimized by this increasingly concerning digital danger by reading my newest article for Speech Technology Magazine, available here.