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Engineering firm behind structural design of Sydney Opera House loses $25m in deepfake scam

A multinational engineering firm behind the original structural design of the Sydney Opera House has been fleeced of $25 million by fraudsters. 

As reported by CNN, UK-based Arup was caught in an elaborate scheme that involved using deepfakes of a senior staff member to order a Hong Kong employee to pay out the funds. 

Deepfakes are videos, photos, or audio clips that are produced by AI to look like someone else. While they can be a source of entertainment, deepfakes can also be used to create fake pornography, spread misinformation or elaborate scams, usually impersonating well-known people, such as politicians or celebrities. 

An ARUP spokesperson told CNN that fake voices and images were used in the scheme, but they couldn’t go into details due to the ongoing investigation. 

Reports indicate the employee believed he was the recipient of a phishing email from Arup headquarters in London. However, his concerns were put to rest following a video call with the company’s CFO and other senior staff. 

He subsequently transferred $HKD200 million to the scammers in 15 transactions. 

An Arup spokesperson told CRN: “Our financial stability and business operations were not affected, and none of our internal systems were compromised.”  

The incident highlights the threat posed by deepfakes, with the technology becoming more realistic and easier to create. 

The topic of deepfakes has been rife in the media recently, with A-list celebrities like Scarlet Johansson and Taylor Swift falling victim to manipulated sexually explicit photos and videos. 

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