Why robocalls are about to get more dangerous

3 months 1 day 19 hours ago Tuesday, October 16 2018 Oct 16, 2018 Tuesday, October 16, 2018 11:19:50 AM CDT October 16, 2018 in News
Source: CNN
By: Tarun Wadhwa for CNN Business Perspectives

(CNN) -- The problem of unsolicited robocalls has gotten so bad that many people now refuse to pick up calls from numbers they don't know. It's become a defense of last resort in an increasingly frustrating situation that's led to nearly 25 million Americans becoming victims of fraud. If only it were that simple to solve.

By next year, it's estimated that half of the calls we receive will be scams, but even more worrisome, 90% of those calls will be "spoofed" — falsely appearing as if they're coming from a familiar number in your contact book.

The government is finally waking up to the severity of the issue by funding and developing a suite of tools, apps and approaches intended to prevent the scammers from getting through.

Unfortunately, it's too little too late. By the time these "solutions" become widely available, scammers will have moved onto radically more sophisticated tactics. In the near future, it's not just going to be the number you see on your screen that will be in doubt. You will soon also question whether the voice you're hearing is actually real.

That's because there is a series of powerful voice manipulation, impersonation and automation technologies that are about to become widely available for anyone to use. Gone are the robotic-sounding voice changers of yesterday. With machine learning, software can now understand and mimic the intonations, speaking style and emotions we use in daily conversation.

And we may already be past the point where we are able to tell whether there's a human being or a bot on the other end of the phone.

At this year's Google's I/O Conference, the company demonstrated a new voice technology able to produce such a convincing human-sounding voice, it was able to speak to a receptionist and book a reservation without detection. Then we saw Buzzfeed reporter Charlie Warzel use a free program called Lyrebird to create an "avatar" of his voice by reading phrases into a program for an hour that was good enough to fool his own mother.

As these systems collect more data and evolve, they require fewer and shorter audio clips in order to make believable replicas.

Take Chinese tech giant Baidu's progress in developing its text-to-speech technology named DeepVoice, for example. When the first version was released in early 2017, it was capable of assembling short sentences that sounded quite realistic, but it required hours of recordings and could only process a single voice. Two releases later, the software is now capable of processing thousands of different voices and requires only 30 minutes of training data.

These developments threaten to make our current frustrations with robocalls much worse. The reason that robocalls are a thorny issue has less to do with volume than precision. A decade of data breaches of personal information has led to a situation where scammers can easily learn your mother's maiden name, and far more. Armed with this knowledge, they're able to carry out large-scale but individually targeted campaigns to deceive people when and where they are most vulnerable. This means, for instance, that a scammer could call you from what looks to be a familiar number and talk to you using a voice that sounds exactly like your bank teller's, saying they've found suspicious activity on your account. You're then tricked into "confirming" your address, mother's maiden name, card number and PIN number.

Scammers follow the money, so companies will be the worst hit. A lot of business is still done over the phone, and much of it is based on trust and existing relationships. Voice manipulation technologies threaten to undermine that — imagine the employees of a large corporation receiving a call from what sounds like the head of the accounting department asking to verify their payroll information.

There are few existing safeguards to protect against the confusion, doubt and chaos that falsified computerized speech can create. We may soon witness it being used to make bomb threats and calls to the police in the voice of others — and there's going to be frightening new types of extortion attempts. We've seen how disinformation campaigns have destroyed the credibility of our media networks; if we are not careful the same thing could happen with voice-based communication in our personal lives too.

We need to deal with the insecure nature of our telecom networks and the outdated systems of authentication and filtering now. Phone carriers, federal agencies and consumers need to work together and find ways of determining and communicating what is real. That might mean either developing a uniform way to mark videos, images and audio with a tag showing when and who they were made by, or abandoning phone calls altogether and moving toward data-based communications — using apps like FaceTime Audio or WhatsApp, which use strong encryption and can be tied to your identity.

Credibility is hard to earn but easy to lose, and the problem is only going to get harder from here on out.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

More News

Grid
List
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — A Missouri appeals court says a lower court judge was wrong to order a woman to... More >>
58 minutes ago Thursday, January 17 2019 Jan 17, 2019 Thursday, January 17, 2019 12:34:00 PM CST January 17, 2019 in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — A Kansas City couple claims in a federal lawsuit that state requirements for foster parents who... More >>
1 hour ago Thursday, January 17 2019 Jan 17, 2019 Thursday, January 17, 2019 12:12:00 PM CST January 17, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY – There are 28 more deer from 11 Missouri counties that have chronic wasting disease (CWD), according to... More >>
2 hours ago Thursday, January 17 2019 Jan 17, 2019 Thursday, January 17, 2019 10:45:00 AM CST January 17, 2019 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Sen. Josh Hawley plans to move his family to a suburb of Washington D.C., but will... More >>
3 hours ago Thursday, January 17 2019 Jan 17, 2019 Thursday, January 17, 2019 10:04:00 AM CST January 17, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA – As the partial government shutdown continues in Washington, Heart of Missouri United Way is stepping up to help... More >>
4 hours ago Thursday, January 17 2019 Jan 17, 2019 Thursday, January 17, 2019 9:12:00 AM CST January 17, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA -- Police confirmed one man was shot and killed early Thursday morning. In a press release, CPD said... More >>
7 hours ago Thursday, January 17 2019 Jan 17, 2019 Thursday, January 17, 2019 6:21:00 AM CST January 17, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Latest on Missouri Gov. Mike Parson's budget and State of the State address Wednesday... More >>
15 hours ago Wednesday, January 16 2019 Jan 16, 2019 Wednesday, January 16, 2019 9:55:00 PM CST January 16, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is proposing a $351 million bond to repair or replace 250... More >>
16 hours ago Wednesday, January 16 2019 Jan 16, 2019 Wednesday, January 16, 2019 9:29:00 PM CST January 16, 2019 in News
Watch KOMU 8 newscasts and download the KOMU WX app for live coverage and alerts. COLUMBIA - Another winter... More >>
18 hours ago Wednesday, January 16 2019 Jan 16, 2019 Wednesday, January 16, 2019 7:23:00 PM CST January 16, 2019 in Weather
COLUMBIA- Lately, mid-Missourians have had the chance to build a snowman or go sledding and then eventually warm up next... More >>
18 hours ago Wednesday, January 16 2019 Jan 16, 2019 Wednesday, January 16, 2019 7:08:00 PM CST January 16, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA – An expert warns that two snow events, one after the other, may affect your roof. Although city... More >>
18 hours ago Wednesday, January 16 2019 Jan 16, 2019 Wednesday, January 16, 2019 6:38:00 PM CST January 16, 2019 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The man killed after allegedly shooting at St. Louis detectives was facing charges for shooting a... More >>
20 hours ago Wednesday, January 16 2019 Jan 16, 2019 Wednesday, January 16, 2019 5:15:00 PM CST January 16, 2019 in News
SPRINGFIELD (AP) — A former student alleges in a lawsuit that Drury University didn't protect her after she was sexually... More >>
20 hours ago Wednesday, January 16 2019 Jan 16, 2019 Wednesday, January 16, 2019 5:06:00 PM CST January 16, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - The friend of a man killed on Sarazen Drive over the weekend says investigators told him John Albers... More >>
21 hours ago Wednesday, January 16 2019 Jan 16, 2019 Wednesday, January 16, 2019 3:46:00 PM CST January 16, 2019 in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — A University of Missouri-Kansas City professor has resigned after being accused of coercing foreign graduate students... More >>
22 hours ago Wednesday, January 16 2019 Jan 16, 2019 Wednesday, January 16, 2019 2:46:00 PM CST January 16, 2019 in News
SPRINGFIELD — A Missouri health provider will have to pay tens of millions of dollars to a former patient... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, January 16 2019 Jan 16, 2019 Wednesday, January 16, 2019 1:13:00 PM CST January 16, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Applications are now available for a giveaway designed to provide computers for low-income families. The city relinquishes... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, January 16 2019 Jan 16, 2019 Wednesday, January 16, 2019 12:26:00 PM CST January 16, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Attorney general Eric Schmitt announced a settlement with Fiat Chrysler and auto parts supplier Bosch over unlawful... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, January 16 2019 Jan 16, 2019 Wednesday, January 16, 2019 11:05:00 AM CST January 16, 2019 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 36°
2pm 35°
3pm 35°
4pm 35°
5pm 35°