Is that your boss on the phone, or a robot criminal?

Is that your boss on the phone, or a robot criminal?

Actor Val Kilmer lost his voice to throat cancer, yet in the new “Top Gun” movie, he does speak a line, thanks to an artificial intelligence program that recreated his voice.

That is a good use of audio “deepfakes,” computer-generated voices that sound human. Here’s a bad use of the evolving tech: Bank robbers faked the voice of a company’s director in order to steal $35 million in a 2020 fraud case in the United Arab Emirates. An employee believed they were speaking with the executive on the phone, directing them to transfer funds. But the employee was speaking with a deepfake imitating the director.

Artificial voices are a booming industry. The movie studio DreamWorks worked with the AI company Cameo to allow users to make the animated character Boss Baby say what they typed into a website. Boss Baby, ever the entrepreneur, charged 20 bucks a pop.

The language school Berlitz uses synthetic voices to create teaching programs that would be expensive and time-consuming to record from humans reading scripts. An AI company that works with Berlitz on the programs, Hour One – with the ironic slogan, “Humanize your content” – urges customers to create voices – or an entire artificial humanoid character – on its website.

But what about the capacity for fraud? The UAE case was not the only example of executive voices being faked to mislead employees. The CEO of a company in the United Kingdom fell for the same sting in 2019, The Wall Street Journal reported, costing his company a quarter-million dollars.

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