In One of the World’s Biggest Known Deepfake Scams, UK Engg. Group Lost $2 Mn

A UK based engineering group, Arup, was targeted in a significant deepfake scam. The incident involved a hyper-realistic video created using artificial intelligence that featured a digitally cloned version of Arup's chief financial officer. This deepfake was used to deceive an employee into transferring a total of HK$200 million to various bank accounts during a video call.

Previously, Hong Kong police revealed what is one of the world's biggest known deepfake scams, but did not identify the company involved. However, Financial Times reported that it has confirmed it was the UK group Arup (officially Arup Group Limited). The engineering firm employs about 18,000 people globally and has annual revenues of more than £2bn.

The scam took place in the Hong Kong office of Arup and is considered one of the largest known deepfake scams to date.

Citing a Hong Kong police acting senior superintendent Baron Chan, the FT report said, "After a video conference joined by the company's digitally cloned CFO and other fake company employees. The staff member made a total of 15 transfers to five Hong Kong bank accounts before eventually discovering it was a scam upon following up with the group's headquarters."

Despite the substantial financial loss, Arup has confirmed that their financial stability and business operations were not affected, and none of their internal systems were compromised. The company, which is headquartered in London, has been working with the authorities, and investigations into the incident are ongoing.

Arup's east Asia chair Andy Lee stepped down in the weeks following the scam after just a year in the role. He was replaced by Michael Kwok, a former east Asia chair for the company. Lee said on his personal LinkedIn page that he had "decided to embark on a new opportunity".

This event highlights the increasing sophistication of cyber-attacks and the rising threat of deepfake technology being used for fraudulent purposes. It serves as a reminder of the importance of vigilance and the need for robust security measures to protect against such sophisticated scams.

Legal actions are being pursued in response to the deepfake scam that targeted Arup. The authorities have been notified, and investigations are ongoing. However, as of the latest updates, no arrests have been made yet¹²³. The case is classified as "obtaining property by deception," which indicates that law enforcement is treating it as a serious criminal matter.

Arup has been cooperative with the police, and while they have not disclosed details due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, they have confirmed that they are working with law enforcement to address the incident¹. The company has also expressed hope that their experience will help raise awareness about the increasing sophistication of cyber-attacks and the evolving techniques of malicious actors.

The incident underscores the importance of cybersecurity and the need for companies to stay vigilant against such advanced forms of fraud. It also highlights the challenges that law enforcement faces in tracking down and prosecuting perpetrators in the digital age, where the tools and methods used to commit crimes are constantly evolving. 

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