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The unethical use of deepfakes

Audrey de Rancourt-Raymond (Department of Accounting, University of Quebec in Montreal, Montreal, Canada)
Nadia Smaili (Department of Accounting, University of Quebec in Montreal, Montreal, Canada)

Journal of Financial Crime

ISSN: 1359-0790

Article publication date: 19 May 2022

Issue publication date: 24 May 2023

1385

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to discuss the harmful use of deepfakes in an organizational context, based on the only two cases the authors found that were addressed by the media from the perspective of corporate fraud. This study offers an overview of deepfake technology, and in particular, examines five W questions to better decipher the impact of these tools on organizations: What is deepfake? Who is the fraudster and who is targeted? Why use them and how? And What after? Based on these five W questions, this study provides an in-depth discussion of the two cases identified. Even though this technology has several advantages, this study examines its dark side.

Design/methodology/approach

Using comparative analysis, the authors study the only two known and publicized fraud cases by using deepfakes that have targeted chief executive officers to date.

Findings

The paper provides an extensive picture of the unethical and illicit use of deepfakes in an organizational context and discusses how this technology could affect fraud risk. In addition, the analysis of cases shows that voice-generating software, combined with other fraud schemes such as business email compromise, facilitates the commission of the fraud, as the victims feel confident because they recognize the speaker’s voice and emails. The analysis shows that any organization could be vulnerable to this technology. The median costs of this type of fraud can be high. For the two cases identified, the estimated losses amounted to US$243,000 and US$35,000,000, respectively.

Originality/value

This paper adds new insights to the scarce research on deepfakes and financial crime by investigating the causes and consequences of the unethical and illicit use of deepfakes. It has several implications for organizations, boards of directors, management and regulatory authorities.

Keywords

Citation

de Rancourt-Raymond, A. and Smaili, N. (2023), "The unethical use of deepfakes", Journal of Financial Crime, Vol. 30 No. 4, pp. 1066-1077. https://doi.org/10.1108/JFC-04-2022-0090

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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