Are Deepfakes an Emerging Threat to Your Small Business?

Technological advancements have eased our lives greatly today. Everything now seems to be accessible online whether it’s groceries, food, clothes, electronics, medicines, etc. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming part of most technological developments. Although all the tech-related advancements we see today are meant to enhance our digital experience, they are also giving cybercriminals a chance to exploit us even badly. One such emerging threat using AI is deepfakes. So, let’s explore in-depth what are deepfakes and their impact on your business.

What Are Deepfakes?

The word “deepfake” is made from two words, i.e., “Deep Learning” and “Fake”. Deepfakes are synthetic content made via AI to impose someone’s likeness onto an existing video, image, or text. In simple words, deepfakes swap faces and make the victim seems like speaking something he/she has never spoken. In short, it is a technology meant to make people believe the false.

Deep learning is a subset of AI that implies arranging algorithms to learn and then make intelligent decisions on their own. Simple deepfakes swap faces by using neural networks. There is one AI algorithm, encoder, that looks for similarities among the two faces, while the second AI algorithm, decoder, reconstructs the images by swapping the likenesses. For deepfakes to work rightly, there should be enough content around the victim so that the AI algorithm can create realistic video, image, or text.

Examples of Deepfakes

The most popular type of deepfakes is video manipulation that also matches the audio tone and style of the victim. Following are two examples of deepfakes that can give you an idea of how realistic deepfakes look:

  1. Deepfake of Former US President Barack Obama
You Won’t Believe What Obama Says In This Video! 😉

Source: YouTube

  1. Deepfake of Tom Cruise
Very realistic Tom Cruise Deepfake | AI Tom Cruise

Source: YouTube

Deepfakes – An Emerging Threat for Businesses

When deepfakes become popular, they were considered a unique technological achievement that can bring more fun. Today, anyone with a smartphone can create such videos using apps like Reface, Avatarify, etc. Since it has become a lot easier to make realistic deepfakes, businesses are concerned with the criminal use of this technology.

Back in 2019, the CEO of an energy company based in the UK was fooled to wire $243,000 to a bank account by making him think that the voice is of his boss. There are many other cases that show the impact and potential of deepfakes in causing damage to businesses.

Following are some of the common ways deepfakes can cause damage to businesses:

1. CEO Fraud

The very first approach that attackers can use with deepfakes is to manipulate employees with CEO fraud. For example, employees might receive a voice call that matches the tone and style of the CEO’s voice and ask them to urgently send money to the provided bank account. Similarly, employees might receive a video call that shows the face of the CEO and again demand money or access to the company’s administrative control. Employees that are not aware of deepfakes will easily become a victim of such attacks. Moreover, attackers can publish a deepfake video of the CEO that says something bad about the company, resulting in severe reputational damage.

2. Forged Texts

Forged texts or readfakes are also becoming popular tactics to trick employees. What attackers do is use the wording and style of the CEO or other higher management to make employees believe that the message is legitimate. The texts usually lead employees to open malicious links/attachments, send sensitive data, send payments, or disclose passwords.

3. Manipulation of Stock Market

Deepfakes can manipulate the stock market very easily. For example, a deepfake video or audio of Elon Musk can impact the Tesla share price. Similarly, a deepfake of U.S. President Joe Biden on banning specific pharmaceuticals can quickly impact the share prices of relevant companies. However, the manipulation of the stock market by deepfakes mostly targets companies listed in the stock market, so small businesses are less vulnerable to this damage.

The above deepfake approaches can not just cause financial damage, but they can cast severe reputational damage. In fact, studies have reported that the reputational damage is mostly caused within 24 hours of the incident. Reputational damage can result in the loss of customers, key stakeholders, employee commitment, etc.

If you are running a small-scale business with a small team, then the chances of becoming a victim of deepfakes are less compared to medium or large-scale businesses. It is because cybercriminals tend to target businesses with a large or diverse team to increase the chances of a successful attack. Moreover, in a small-scale business, the team and CEO are already in close touch with each other, so becoming a victim of deepfakes is a rare case.

Best Security Practices to Avoid Damages from Deepfakes

One thing you might have noticed is that deepfakes mostly target the lower management of the company and uses the face, voice, or text of higher management. So, if the employees are well-educated about deepfakes, they won’t easily become the victim of such attacks. Below are some of the best security practices that can help you to protect your business from deepfake damages:

  • Multi-level Authentication Procedures: You can set up multi-level authentication procedures while sending or releasing sensitive data.
  • Train Employees: Employees must be educated and trained about the potential risks of deepfakes and how such attacks can manipulate them.
  • Fast Response: You should set up a proper plan on how to quickly react if your business becomes a victim of deepfake. You should quickly prove that the content is deepfake to avoid any financial or reputational damage.
  • Deepfake Detection Tool: Use deepfake detection tools just like the one offered by Microsoft to quickly check any suspected deepfake content.

In short, deepfake seems difficult to detect at the first glimpse, but if you and your employees are well-trained and have access to the right tools and procedures, then you can avoid any damage from deepfakes.

Final Words

Technological advancements do come with a con of empowering cybercriminals to use new tactics to trick businesses. Deepfake is one such concerning threat businesses have to deal with today. But if you have set the right security policies around it, then you can greatly reduce the chances of becoming a victim.

Are Deepfakes an Emerging Threat to Your Small Business? was last updated October 6th, 2023 by Hamza Razzaq