UK multinational Arup confirmed as victim of HK$200 million deepfake scam that used digital version of CFO to dupe Hong Kong employee

UK multinational Arup confirmed as victim of HK$200 million deepfake scam that used digital version of CFO to dupe Hong Kong employee

A major UK-based multinational has confirmed it was the victim of a deepfake scam in which an employee in its Hong Kong office transferred HK$200 million (US$25.6 million) after being fooled by a digitally recreated version of the firm’s chief financial officer.

Hong Kong police did not reveal the name of the company involved when they reported the scam in February, but London-based design and engineering firm Arup said on Friday it was the victim. The force had said it was the first time officers in the city had encountered a bogus video conference call being used in such a scheme.

An employee in the Hong Kong branch’s finance department had received a phishing message in mid-January that appeared to be from the company’s CFO based in the United Kingdom saying a secret transaction had to be carried out, according to police.

The staff member joined a video conference with what he thought were the company’s CFO and other representatives, and was given instructions to make 15 transfers totalling HK$200 million to five bank accounts over a week in January.

“Back in January we notified the police about an incident of fraud in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, we can’t go into details at this stage as the incident is still the subject of an ongoing investigation,” an Arup spokesman said.

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

Some of Arup’s most prominent projects include the Beijing National Stadium, Sydney Opera House and the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. Photo: Reuters

The company’s chief information officer, Rob Greig, said he hoped Arup’s experience could help raise awareness over the increasing sophistication and evolving techniques of such fraudsters.

“Like many other businesses around the globe, our operations are subject to regular attacks, including invoice fraud, phishing scams, WhatsApp voice spoofing and deepfakes,” he said.

“What we have seen is that the number and sophistication of these attacks has been rising sharply in recent months.”

According to the company’s website, Arup’s Hong Kong office has more than 2,200 staff members and has worked on projects such as Hong Kong International Airport, the West Kowloon Cultural District and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.

Globally, the 78-year-old firm employs more than 18,500 designers, advisers and experts working across 140 countries.

Some of its most prominent projects include the Sydney Opera House, the Beijing National Stadium and the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

Hong Kong police said everyone present on the video calls, except the victim, were fake representations of real people.

Police investigations found that the participants had been digitally recreated by scammers who used publicly available video and audio footage of the individuals.



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