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Hackers leverage deepfake tech to swindle Binance consumers

Internet scammers have been using deepfake technology to impersonate a Binance executive’s image, aiming to trick victims into investing in fabricated crypto projects.

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Wed, 24 Aug 2022
Hackers leverage deepfake tech to swindle Binance consumers
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The crypto exchange has announced that hackers have defrauded several crypto projects out of their funds with sophisticated hologram deepfakes.

In a blog, Binance chief communications officer Patrick Hillmann disclosed that he had been impersonated by internet scammers with deepfake technology, after "catching-on" due to receiving messages from the leadership of various crypto projects thanking him for meetings he never attended.

"Over the past month, I’ve received several online messages thanking me for taking the time to meet with project teams regarding potential opportunities to list their assets on Binance.com," Hillmann wrote.


"This was odd because I don’t have any oversight of, or insight into Binance listings, nor had I met with any of these people before."

Hillmann further explained that a team of hackers had used old interviews found online to create a deepfake of him.

"Other than the 7 kg that I gained during COVID being noticeably absent, this deep fake was refined enough to fool several highly intelligent crypto community members," Hillman added.

According to Gizmodo, Binance is ranked as one of the biggest crypto exchanges by far when comparing trading volume, which likely makes it a high value target for scammers looking to squeeze both crypto users and project leaders out of their money.

Apparently, there's been a rash of hackers faking themselves as Binance staff on multiple social platforms including Twitter, LinkedIn, and Telegram, according to Hillmann, who did not state how many crypto projects have been scammed.

The fake accounts have approached various leads of up-and-coming crypto projects, asking them to pay a fee for the honour of having their projects listed on Binance.

"The fact that these execs were not only targeting crypto users, but crypto project teams as well, points to just how prolific scams and hacks are in the larger crypto community."

The problem has become common enough that Binance has a tool to verify whether a source actually represents the exchange.

According to FBI data, users are being regularly scammed by fake crypto apps, losing about $US42 million (AU$58 million) in total over the past year.

While some of the largest crypto heists have involved hackers infiltrating web3 networks, usually abusing security flaws found in connected web2 applications, other scams called "rugpulls" get users to sign up with false promises before taking the funds and disappearing.

While Binance is often rated as a top crypto exchange by trading volume, the company isn’t immune to user complaints. According to Gizmodo's past reporting, hundreds of complaints have been filed with the Federal Trade Commission against the exchange, with many arguing that they put their crypto into Binance but were restricted from withdrawing it. Other complainants have highlighted they were scammed by people pretending to be customer support for Binance, which in previous years did not have a customer support phone number available, but the company now has a support centre which shows up as one of the first options in Google searches.

With one of the Binance main offices being located in the Cayman Islands, Binance does not claim any home country for their HQ arguing they are "decentralised", which could be part of the issue.

Security researchers have found many online accounts on LinkedIn are AI-generated according to Gizmodo, and deepfakes are being used more and more to apply to remote jobs according to law enforcement officials. The best way to tell a deepfake from an actual human is to watch for any video defects or visual glitches or skin texture that doesn't seem real.

Still, many scammers use low-quality cameras to try and mask any sign the person behind the camera is a digital image.

[Related: Motorola awarded $60m to bolster NSW state emergency cyber security network]

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