The Great AI Money Heist of Europe
Banking chaos as accounts are frozen to prevent industrial scale theft
The romantic image of a thief is a well-educated gentleman who eases in through a window, silently cracks the safe to get to a specific piece of jewelry, or takes only a valuable painting or two before vanishing back into the dark night. The ‘gentleman’ has been replaced by hardcore criminals who don’t shy away from violence or wanton destruction to get what they want.
But with the rise of the Internet, the thugs went online in droves, performing elaborate scams to steal passwords, hack into secure systems, and empty bank accounts, or lock corporates out of their critical systems.
As the criminals got smarter, the access systems became more advanced, requiring longer and more complicated passwords and two-factor authentication, eventually combined with biometric access keys. And there it all failed, spectacularly, as many European banking clients realized yesterday when they got locked out of their accounts.
Deep-fakes, cloned voices, and scrubbed fingerprints – Generative AI has given the criminal networks a whole new toolbox. The thugs have been replaced by nerdy computer whiz kids weaving digital nets using AI tools and the dark web. Why bother with tedious cracking of passwords when your AI can scrape the net for a facial image from last year’s birthday and a voice snippet from a holiday clip, and combine them into a video message that would fool even your parents?
Yesterday afternoon, just after 14:00 CET, a wave of deep-fake video calls convinced bankers across Europe to transfer hundreds of millions of euros from customers’ accounts to a spiderweb of anonymous entities and crypto wallets.
“Secure access and indisputable proof that you are the account owner are at the core of all banking systems,” said Torben Schtaad, advisor to the European Central Bank. “Without that, the online banking system collapses. And that’s where we are now!” On the question of what to do now, Schtaad threw his hands up in the air and walked away.
Maybe the new DNA security locks will solve the problem, but then again… can you be sure that your digital DNA from various blood tests or genetic screening isn’t lurking somewhere online?
Warning: Hazardous thinking at work
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