Financial fraud using hyperfaking, called deepfake in English, is now very present in Quebec. At least eight casualties have been reported here since last summer, with losses in the “tens of thousands of dollars” for some. Voices tampered with by artificial intelligence from a high-ranking company official or Elon Musk are a favorite bait for fraudsters. The best display is not sophisticated: you have to be wary.

Easy to find fake Elon Musk videos on the web. The eccentric billionaire at the helm of Tesla, SpaceX and social network , he also exploded the value of another cryptocurrency, dogecoin, by announcing that it could be used to pay for a ticket into space.

Result: videos like this one, where Elon Musk promises an outrageous return of 30% per day, or others where he promises to give away two bitcoins in exchange for one, are circulating in every corner of the web.

In May 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the American financial fraud watchdog, reported 7,000 victims of fraudulent investments linked to cryptocurrencies in less than six months, for losses amounting to at least US$80 million.

In Quebec, what is considered the first use of hyperfaking for financial fraud was reported by the media last July. We could hear journalist Anne-Marie Dussault promoting an online gaming site promising a win every time. On November 21, the Financial Markets Authority (AMF) issued an official warning: fraudsters are working to “recreate with disconcerting precision the voices of well-known public figures or those close to you.”

The first cases reported to the AMF date from last summer. “We have so far six reports clearly linked to hyperfaking,” spokesperson Sylvain Théberge told La Presse. Hyperfaking is now a reality here. »

These reports are confidential, so the AMF cannot provide further details. At most, Mr. Théberge indicates that “Elon Musk is the name mainly cited as having been the subject of hyperfaking by fraudsters.” “People have contacted us to tell us that they had invested money after seeing videos,” he adds. We are talking about tens of thousands of dollars for some. »

At Norton Rose Fullbright, an international law firm with a large branch in Canada, we have noted another phenomenon: a sophisticated version thanks to hyperfaking of the famous “presidential fraud”. This fraud essentially consists of hacking the email account of a business manager and sending a fraudulent fund transfer request to the accounting department. The “manager”, in fact the cyberhacker, uses the excuse of travel or difficult communications to avoid using a telephone, for this always urgent request.

What’s new, explains Imran Ahmad, head of technology and cybersecurity at Norton Rose Fulbright Canada, is that the request is reinforced by a fabricated voice message left outside of office hours.

Two cases in Quebec, six in total in Canada, have been reported by clients of Norton Rose Fulbright Canada in the last six months. “I thought for a long time it was theory. I expect this to become more and more prevalent in the coming years. »

Technically, it is likely that the hackers recorded a sample of the leader’s voice during a malicious phone call. How long? The scientific literature is not clear on this subject, with some experiments reporting convincing imitations with only a few seconds of recording, the consensus being around 2 to 15 minutes.

“The calls we sometimes receive on our cell phones, at home, where you answer “Hello” without anyone speaking, that could be it: we are essentially trying to capture your voice,” says Mr. Ahmad.

David Décary-Hétu, researcher at the School of Criminology at the University of Montreal and expert in online data collection and computer hacking, is immediately reassuring: we are far from a “breaking wave”, firstly because the method used requires a lot of work.

However, he recognizes that this problem could become important with the evolution of hyperfaking tools. “The technology is not undetectable, but it is difficult to detect using the latest tools. It all depends on the time we have to prepare and the material that is publicly available about the person. »

While not everyone has the computer equipment to detect hyperfaking, everyone can benefit from some basic advice to put fraudsters in check, points out Sylvain Théberge of the AMF. At the forefront: check that your contact has the right to sell financial products in Quebec, by visiting the register now by the AMF.

“Never communicate your personal information or transmit money before having first validated the reliability of your interlocutor,” specifies the spokesperson. A word of advice: hang up quickly and tell the person you are talking to that you will contact them again using their official contact details displayed in the Register. »

Imran Ahmad gives similar advice to avoid falling prey to the president’s fraud version 2.0. “They exploit human vulnerability, including the fact that many now work in hybrid mode. I remind my clients to respect internal protocol: pick up the phone and make sure it is the person in authority requesting the transfer. »