Arup caught out by deepfake £20m fraud

Arup caught out by deepfake £20m fraud

Jun 5, 2024

Engineering giant Arup was the target of an elaborate scam involving a fake video conference call to a member of the finance team in its Hong Kong office

The elaborate scam resulted in the Hong Kong finance worker being invited to and attending an online meeting, supposedly with the chief financial officer, Rob Boardman, and other senior staff, but they were in fact all deepfakes created by artificial intelligence (AI), and the creations were so realistic that the finance worker thought they were the real people.

Unfortunately for Arup, the staff member agreed to transfer millions of pounds to the accounts of the fraudsters, without seeking authorisation from senior finance managers or getting a second sign off on the transfer. The total amount of the transfers was HK$200 million (£20.4m), made in 15 different transactions.

Arup said that the scam had cost the company £20m and that fake voices and images were used to lure the finance worker into believing that the real Arup staff were on the conference call.

As soon as the fraud was discovered in January it was reported to Hong Kong police, and in February the police told local reporters that a finance worker from an unnamed multinational company had been duped into transferring money after attending a video conference call with the chief financial officer and other staff, who were in fact deepfakes created through artificial intelligence.

A spokesperson for London based Arup told CNN on Friday that Arup had been the victim of the fraudsters.

In a statement, an Arup spokesperson said: ‘Unfortunately we cannot go into details at this stage as the incident is still the subject of an ongoing investigation. However, we can confirm that fake voices and images were used.

‘Our financial stability and business operations were not affected and none of our internal systems were compromised.’