Beware of AI-driven crimes: Experts

Deepfakes, voice spoofing and financial market manipulation could all become the future of crime when syndicates start using AI in their operations.


Deepfakes, voice spoofing and financial market manipulation could all become the future of crime when syndicates start using AI in their operations. PHOTO: UNSPLASH

December 6, 2023

KUALA LUMPUR – When one speaks about Artificial Intelligence (AI), the first thing that comes to mind might be the T-800 terminator that was sent from the future to eliminate John Connor from the timeline in the 1984 movie

The Terminator.Since then, other movies and series have also depicted the potential use of AI in analysing human behaviour in a bid to predict and stop crimes from occurring.

The year is now 2023, however, and with the latest developments in technology, the threat of AI being used for more sinister reasons is already at our doorstep.

Deepfakes, voice spoofing and financial market manipulation could all become the future of crime when syndicates start using AI in their operations.

Recently, a deepfake video of a Malaysian leader promoting a get-rich-quick scheme has been circulating on social media.

Federal Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) director Comm Datuk Seri Ramli Mohamed Yoosuf said the video is a prime example of how AI could be misused.

“The promises made in that video are too good to be true, which means it is most definitely an investment scam and there is no way that a political leader would promote such a thing. It is absurd.

“While the video here is about gaining quick wealth, there are other aspects that can similarly be manipulated, especially in politics and social engineering.

“AI is already here and because of this, it is important not only for the police but also the public to be aware of the potential risks AI could pose in the near future.

“Today’s world has shown how AI is increasingly taking over tasks and roles previously done by humans.

“While some of us might know about the advancements in this field, others might still be unaware of the potential risks that follow the swift advancements made in AI,” he told The Star recently.

Comm Ramli said that based on current predictions, AI could be used by syndicates in their illicit activities against Malaysians by as early as the middle of 2024.

“Once this occurs, everything in the financial sector, every service that has gone online, could face the risk of being infiltrated.

“AI could be used in the creation of algorithms that are capable of hacking computer systems, while other algorithms could also be used to analyse data and manipulate results which gives it the potential to be used to influence or cripple financial markets,” he said.

He added that AI could also be used in advanced video and audio manipulation that can lead to potential identity theft and the creation of deepfake videos.

“In this scenario, the possibilities are limitless as crime syndicates could use deepfake images, videos or voices to dupe people and organisations.

“They could use such deepfakes in bogus kidnap-for-ransom cases, where they trick families into believing they have kidnapped a loved one, while some could even use it to create lewd or pornographic images of victims that could in turn be used to blackmail them,” he said.

He also added that through the creation of convincing false identities through photographs or videos, syndicates could even pose as a person to ask for money or even trick victims into thinking that one of their family members is in danger.

Comm Ramli explained that deepfakes could even be used in spreading propaganda and fake news which could lead to public anxiety.

“There are indicators that AI could be used to perpetrate economic crimes.

“AI scientists are also talking about quantum computing that will enable decryption, which in turn could render all binary encryption technology that is currently in place useless.

“We have been keeping up with the latest news on the use of AI in crime in the region and are aware of an instance in Hong Kong earlier this year where a syndicate allegedly used AI deepfake technology in the application of loans,” he said.

Media in Hong Kong reported on Aug 25 that police there uncovered a syndicate which used eight stolen identity cards to make 90 loan applications and 54 bank account registrations.

In what was considered the first case of its kind there, deepfake methods were used at least 20 times to imitate those pictured in the identity cards and trick facial recognition programmes.

Six people were arrested in connection with the case.

Comm Ramli said that while there have not been any reported commercial cases involving the direct use of AI so far, that does not mean that it will not become a problem in future.

“This is why the public needs to be prepared and be in the know of such things.

“The best weapons the public will have against AI are knowledge and awareness.

“If the public in general are aware of how AI can be used, they will be extra cautious and not be easily duped by syndicates employing such tactics,” he said.

It is important to note that conventional online scams such as love scams, parcel scams and Macau scams are committed by real-life people without the use of AI.

In such scams, a person is directly involved in posing as a law enforcement officer, courier service provider or even a potential lover either through phone call, email or via social media.

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