How Scammers Can Use Your Voice Against You

How Scammers Can Use Your Voice Against You
18:12

Table of Contents

Cybercriminals and scammers can use your voice as a weapon against you. Once upon a time, we might have brushed off the idea of fraudsters using voice data to bypass security measures and authentication systems as science fiction. However, in today’s world, rife with AI (Artificial Intelligence) and other advancing technologies, voice security is a legitimate and pressing concern. 

 

 

Increasingly, numerous businesses from diverse sectors are using voice authentication methods, which means employees use voice recognition systems as a form of authentication to access various parts of an enterprise’s IT estate. 

 

Think of it as no different than biometric authentication. The issue is that threat actors are using voice biometrics to commit cybercrime. The end goal for most of this cybercrime is to access and exfiltrate data, especially sensitive information like business secrets and customer records. 

 

In most traditional cybersecurity stacks, there is no obvious tool to protect a user’s voice. However, with more voiceprint-related security incidents making the headlines globally, voice security is becoming a key pillar of an organization’s cybersecurity strategy

 

Keep in mind that the voice biometrics market will be worth $3.9 billion by 2026, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 22.8% since the beginning of the decade. That’s how prevalent the use of voice data is in multifactor authentication (MFA).  

 

With this information as a backdrop, let us explore in further detail how scammers can use your voice against you, and what security solutions you can implement to keep dangerous adversaries at bay. 

 

The Rise in AI-Generated Voice Scams

 

AI technology is a force used for both good and evil. These technologies are the bedrock of AI voice cloning scams involving audio deepfakes to trick an unsuspecting victim. By manipulating or creating a believable recreation of a person’s voice, criminals can trick victims into providing sensitive data or money by pretending to be a family member or loved one. 

 

Threat actors are not limiting their use of voice cloning technologies to phone scams. They are also leveraging these tools for political manipulation and even to steal cryptocurrency. AI-generated voice scams are rapidly becoming one of the most prevalent scams to be aware of. 

 

With dangerous trends in adjacent technologies and phenomena like social media (Instagram, TikTok, and X) and the rise of generative AI tools like ChatGPT, adversaries are wreaking havoc via voice AI scams. Scam calls involve manipulated audio clips that may arrive from known and unknown numbers. The rise in voice cloning scams has inspired organisations like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to initiate contests like The FTC Voice Cloning Challenge, which focuses on defending consumers from AI-generated voice scams. 

 

Voice imposters threaten an array of industries and geographies. There are cases of AI-generated voice scams across the world. According to The Guardian, Jennifer DeStefano spoke in front of the US Senate last year to warn about the dangers of voice cloning scams. As told by DeStefano, she received a call from what sounded like her daughter. The “voice” of her daughter informed DeStefano that she was at the mercy of kidnappers and that they demanded a ransom to ensure her safety. Luckily for DeStefano, someone with her knew about such AI-generated voice scams, which ensured that the incident didn’t escalate. From fake kidnappings to car accidents, AI-generated voice scams are a nightmare for victims as well as law enforcement and intelligence agencies such as the FBI.     

 

Now that you know more about the threat landscape where voice AI scams flourish, let’s quickly learn why voice data and voice biometrics matter.  

 

Why Voice Biometrics Matter

 

Before we delve into how fraudsters leverage a legitimate user’s voice to access private enterprise networks, let us get a sense of why voice data is so useful for businesses. In the past, users in an IT environment had to bypass a single level of security to access specific data. Now, most companies embrace MFA (multifactor authentication) and other multi-layered forms of authentication. 

 

There are a few simple steps to creating a voiceprint that employees can use as a key. The process begins with voice recording. This voice recording, compromising numerous sound characteristics like timbre, tone, and pitch, transforms into voice data. After this, the voice data acts as a point of comparison. Machine learning (ML) algorithms work in real time to compare this voice data to users requesting access with their voice biometrics.   

 

From an enterprise perspective, a user’s voice is an additional level of security. Ideally, it should prevent scams and frauds, facilitate continuous authentication, and augment robust cybersecurity frameworks like zero trust. In sectors and use cases where privacy is essential (such as fintech and healthcare), voice authentication systems are potent mechanisms for enterprises and their customers. 

 

Unfortunately, as with most things in our contemporary risk-ridden business landscape, voice authentication systems are not quite the utopian access and authentication solution. Scammers are increasingly using advanced tools and tactics to weaponize voices and steal data from organizations, and the effects are catastrophic. 

 

Now that we’ve established the importance of voice biometrics, we will focus on VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) systems, a unified communications system that enterprises use. This is important because VoIP systems are in the crosshairs of voice cloning scams and voice AI scams. In some cases, threat actors use voice cloning scams to infiltrate VoIP systems and exfiltrate data. In other cases, threat actors intercept VoIP calls to record voices, which they can then use to engineer further voice AI scams. As such, securing VoIP systems should be businesses imperative across industries.  

 

Understanding VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)

 

To understand how hackers use voice data to facilitate data breaches, we must learn more about VoIP systems, and, more importantly, VoIP security threats. VoIP phone systems enable businesses to make phone calls over an internet connection rather than a traditional phone line. 

 

These systems differ from PBX (Private Branch Exchange) and PSTN (Publicly Switched Telephone Network) systems. VoIP services can make calls to other VoIP services. It can also make international calls, local calls, and calls to anyone with a legitimate phone service and phone number. Businesses use computers or specific landlines to make VoIP calls. However, some VoIP business phone systems enable integration with regular phones. 

 

Businesses across industries commission services from VoIP providers to fulfill various business demands--for example, VoIP networks help facilitate in-house communications and telemedicine sessions in the healthcare industry. In our post-COVID world, where digital education is everywhere, VoIP networks help with long-distance and virtual learning. Many other enterprises, including small and large businesses, leverage VoIP systems for cloud-based communication and collaboration. Other use cases for VoIP systems include call centers, video calls, gaming, and multimedia sharing. 

 

VoIP systems offer numerous benefits. These include optimized per-call costs, diverse messaging and call features, streamlined conferencing, improved customer and client communications, stability, reliability, and flexibility. However, to the detriment of businesses and individuals worldwide, the story of VoIP systems doesn’t end here. VoIP systems are rife with vulnerabilities and susceptible to potent cyberattacks. In the next section, we will dive into the many risks businesses face with their VoIP systems.

 

The Security Vulnerabilities of VoIP (Voice over IP) Systems

 

VoIP systems are an alluring attack vector for threat actors to initiate security breaches. In the hands of cybercriminals, VoIP traffic, which is essentially voice data, is a weapon that can cause chaos. Threat actors are increasingly implementing voice cloning scams and voice AI scams to access treasure troves of enterprise data, including the social security and credit card details of valued clients and customers. 

 

This section will focus on security issues that VoIP systems face. Businesses can secure VoIP systems and harden their network security posture by acquainting themselves with these critical security risks. The following are the top security vulnerabilities that threaten unified communication systems that work with internet connections. 

 

Spoofing

 

Spoofing, or caller ID spoofing, is an attack on VoIP systems that involves manipulating caller ID details. A VoIP user may pick up a malicious call because the caller ID information may appear familiar and legitimate. Once a VoIP user picks up the call, the scammer can continue the attack in many possible ways, including kickstarting or escalating voice cloning scams and voice AI scams. 

 

Toll Fraud 

 

While toll fraud isn’t directly related to voice cloning scams and voice AI scams, it’s still a dangerous tactic adversaries use. Securing VoIP is impossible without considering the looming threat of toll fraud. 

 

Toll fraud occurs when adversaries hack into a VoIP system to make expensive long-distance or international calls. Over time, this can amount to thousands of dollars, which is a significant amount of money for small businesses. 

 

DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) 

 

DDoS attacks are another example of VoIP dangers that don’t directly facilitate voice cloning scams. However, DDoS attacks, which involve flooding VoIP systems with spam traffic, can cause severe downtime and disruptions. 

 

The fallout from DDoS attacks includes both financial and repetitional damage. The bottom line is that a large volume of illegitimate VoIP traffic can tear down small businesses and severely dent the operations of larger organizations. 

 

Eavesdropping

 

Without robust VoIP encryption, businesses open themselves to attacks such as eavesdropping. Eavesdropping involves the inception of VoIP systems, which allows threat actors to listen in on private conversations, pick up sensitive data, and even record voices to implement voice cloning scams. By recording voices, threat actors can gather voice biometrics and voice data, potentially giving them further access to enterprise IT estates.   

 

Malware and Phishing

 

Like numerous other systems within an enterprise’s IT environment, VoIP systems are susceptible to malware and phishing attacks. Cybercriminals now leverage advanced AI and ML mechanisms for voice cloning scams to facilitate phishing campaigns and malware attacks. 

 

With voice AI scams, threat actors can present themselves as legitimate users trying to access sensitive data. On many occasions, they successfully manage to access sensitive data with voice AI scams. 

 

Vishing (Voice Phishing)

 

Businesses must pay close attention to a relatively new form of phishing, “vishing.” Sometimes known as voice phishing, vishing attacks involve the interception of VoIP systems, after which threat actors use AI to orchestrate voice cloning scams. These threat actors will request users to provide sensitive information, business secrets, and other highly valuable data by posing as a familiar or trustworthy entity. 

 

Perfecting Voice Security: How to Mitigate Voice Cloning Scams and Voice AI Scams 

 

Going forward, we can expect voice cloning scams and voice AI scams to continue to be a critical threat that enterprises face. Threat actors hijack VoIP systems with the goal of accessing sensitive data to initiate voice AI scams. 

 

In some cases, they also mine VoIP traffic for voices to record and use in voice cloning scams. With advanced AI tools and libraries of stolen voice biometrics, threat actors can break into numerous private vaults in enterprise IT environments. They can also trick individuals into sending them money and critical data by pretending to be loved ones. This makes Voice security critical, and securing VoIP systems is one of the first steps in the process. 

 

The following are some VoIP security best practices businesses can follow to keep unified communications safe and prevent threat actors from weaponizing people’s voices. 

 

Utilize Voicemail

 

Voicemail is an underrated tool for warding off voice AI scams. If an individual has even the slightest suspicion that a certain VoIP call might be illegitimate, it’s wise to let that call go straight to voicemail. This approach allows the individual to listen to voicemail messages and determine if a call poses a significant threat. This is especially important considering threat actors can manipulate caller IDs and phone details to appear legitimate.  

 

Implement Multifactor Authentication (MFA) 

 

Two-factor authentication and multifactor authentication can help businesses reduce the risk of data breaches. By implementing such defense mechanisms, voice biometrics can never be the weakest link hackers leverage to break into an enterprise’s IT vaults. 

 

In addition to voice biometrics, companies can implement other authentication factors such as strong passwords, one-time passwords, codes, and secret questions. 

 

Avoid Sharing Data on Calls

 

No matter how realistic a voice AI scam is, it should never result in individuals sharing sensitive data over the phone. Suppose there is a legitimate need to share personal or sensitive information, such as social security numbers or credit card details. In that case, individuals must route those requests through official channels. 

 

Conduct Regular Training Sessions

 

AI has advanced multifold in the last few years. Therefore, it’s almost impossible to distinguish legitimate callers from a voice AI scam. One way to battle this malicious use of AI is by educating employees about the dangers of voice cloning scams. If employees can identify key details and red flags that may suggest a call is illegitimate, it can potentially save enterprises thousands or even millions of dollars in regulatory fines. 

 

Verify the Caller’s Identity

 

The best voice AI scams can create voices that sound real and believable. However, call recipients can weed out scammers by asking for different kinds of critical information to validate the caller’s legitimacy. 

 

Employees must remember that no matter how real voice AI scams may sound, they can evade a potential disaster by making the caller undergo some quick validation and authentication procedures. 

 

Encrypt Voice Data 

 

Like any other form of data enterprises possess and secure, voice traffic in VoIP systems must be encrypted. The logic behind end-to-end encryption is simple: even if a fraudster manages to access a VoIP network, it will be impossible for them to access the actual voices of legitimate users. 

This approach makes it difficult for threat actors to mine voices to make their voice AI scams more realistic. Some methods to encrypt VoIP traffic include Transport Layer Security (TLS), Session Initiation Protocols (SIP), and Secure Real-Time Transport Protocols (SRTP).

 

Use VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) 

 

In addition to myriad security protocols, businesses can benefit from using VPNs. This is especially important in our post-COVID world, where most enterprises have many remote workers who access sensitive company data from personal devices like smartphones, public Wi-Fi networks, and other unprotected sources. 

 

Install VoIP Firewalls 

 

VoIP firewalls help mediate and restrict VoIP traffic in unified communications systems. This ensures that businesses can implement security features and traffic restrictions based on a pre-defined set of rules. VoIP firewalls are an effective first line of defense against scammers who try to use voice data to create and deploy voice AI scams. 

 

Partner with a Reputed VoIP Service Provider

 

In addition to the above VoIP security best practices, the most important thing a business needs to do to secure VoIP systems and prevent voice-cloning scams is to work with a reputed VoIP service provider. By doing so, organizations can ensure robust protection of all IP telephony without compromising user experience or customer satisfaction. Most importantly, this will stop threat actors from successfully pulling off voice AI scams and tapping into VoIP systems to steal voice biometrics and voice data. 

 

Conclusion

 

With every passing month, the possibility of advanced AI-generated voice scams increases. No one is safe from this dangerous attack method. Individuals from all walks of life and enterprises from different geographies and sectors will face the threat of voice AI scams. 

 

Considering how important voice biometrics and data are, securing VoIP systems is essential. When legitimate voice data ends up in the hands of cybercriminals, it can transform into a dangerous weapon with the help of AI tools. 

 

VoIP systems are susceptible to risks such as spoofing, toll fraud, DDoS attacks, eavesdropping, malware, phishing, and vishing. The best ways to mitigate these risks and reduce the likelihood of voice AI scams include utilizing voicemail, implementing MFA, avoiding sharing data over calls, conducting training seminars, verifying callers’ identities, encrypting voice data, using VPNs, installing firewalls, and most importantly, partnering with a reputed VoIP provider. 

 

If businesses follow these VoIP security best practices, they can continue to use unified communication systems without the fear of interception.

 

Is your IT the best it can be?

Categories: Security, Artificial Intelligence, VoIP, Cyber Security, AI, Network Security, Mobile Device Management, Security Breach, IT Security, Cyber Attack, Phones, Cybersecurity, Voice Security, Voice AI Scam, Securing VoIP, Voice Cloning Scam

blogs related to this

Artificial Intelligence Can Help Everyone - Including Scammers. What to Look For.

Artificial Intelligence Can Help Everyone - Including Scammers. What to Look For.

We all knew that artificial intelligence (AI) would be a great disruptor. However, now that the era of AI is upon us, its potential dangers and...

How to Protect Your Business From a Brute Force Attack

How to Protect Your Business From a Brute Force Attack

Data breaches are every business’s worst nightmare. With every passing year, hackers find new ways to gain unauthorized access to enterprises’ IT...

Minimize Risk and Maximize Security with Cybersecurity Insurance

Minimize Risk and Maximize Security with Cybersecurity Insurance

Cybersecurity insurance, also known as cyber insurance or cyber liability insurance, provides comprehensive coverage to businesses. It helps them...

Cybersecurity Laws and Regulations to Know About (2024)

Cybersecurity Laws and Regulations to Know About (2024)

As businesses weave cloud computing, edge computing, internet-of-things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and myriad other...

What is the Difference Between MDR and Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR)?

What is the Difference Between MDR and Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR)?

The cybersecurity market is booming and enterprises have thousands of security solutions to choose from. However, two security solutions hover over...

What is Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR)?

What is Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR)?

An endpoint is any device connected to an enterprise network. Security teams have focused on protecting enterprise endpoints from threats and...

What is Managed Detection and Response (MDR)?

What is Managed Detection and Response (MDR)?

With every passing year, it becomes more evident that cybersecurity must be the strongest pillar in every organization. Businesses lose millions...