• Staff writer

One to watch: Deepfake technology and recruitment

The growing sophistication of deepfake technology

Few topics are as important as IT security. Hacking, internet based scams and cybercrimes, such as ransomware attacks, pose

a serious threat to individuals as well as businesses.

Criminals seized the opportunity presented by pandemic lockdowns. The online shopping boom, vaccination programs, test and trace, and government financial support schemes all combined to produce a fraudster’s bonanza.

The threat is complex. From fake Facebook accounts that attempt to spread incorrect news and information, through to phishing scams that attempt to gain bank details, the methods and aims of hackers and cybercriminals vary enormously.

One of the most worrying techniques is the use of ‘deepfake’ technology. The term ‘deepfake’ is a combination and contraction of the words ‘deep learning’ and ‘fake’. This is a form of AI-based technology that allows the creation or alteration of images, audio, and video. This enables the invention of false content that may appear to be real.

Some of the most well-known examples have been used as internet click bait, featuring politicians or public figures such as Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Mark Zuckerberg and Nancy Pelosi, presenting invented content. Most are obvious spoofs, and are easy to identify.

However, the technology is advancing fast and this means that there is a significant potential to misuse deepfake technology for malign purposes.

To facilitate fraud within businesses, one example could be to issue fraudulent payment instructions to the finance team by replicating the voice of the finance chief over the phone. Or a more advanced version of the technology could insert a fake line into a CEO’s keynote or other newsworthy event.

The word of business or political leaders can be highly influential. Billionaire Elon Musk wiped hundreds of millions off the value of Bitcoin simply by declining to accept the cryptocurrency as payment for Tesla cars. The potential for deepfake misuse is really only limited by the imagination.

Deepfake risks in recruitment

The increasing sophistication of deepfake technology is running in parallel with the increasing capability and proliferation of recruitment technology. At the heart of any con involving deepfakes is the question of identity. Identity theft and impersonation are critical factors in many frauds.

Deepfake interviews

One strong RecTech trend is for the use of video as part of the candidate search and selection process. Deepfake video interviews are one possible misuse of the technology, but the question is why would someone go to the trouble?

If the motive is financial fraud, then an applicant’s interview for a remote worker role could be spoofed and supported with deepfake technology. This might enable a deepfake fraudster to impersonate a real person and hide their own identity to gain insider access to an organisation’s IT and commercial systems. Inside the organisation they could hijack payroll or accounts payable processes, or perhaps even execute a more sophisticated fraud.

Deepfake harassment

Another potential threat is not so much to the recruitment process, but to the HR function in general. Harassment or sabotaging of an employee’s private or professional reputation is another potential way that deepfakes could be misused.

For example, a manager’s authority could be undermined by using deepfakes to suggest incompetence or malpractice. Or, imagine damaging mobile phone footage emerging during a race for promotion which destroyed the reputation of one of the candidates?

At the moment, the threat from deepfake technology to recruitment and businesses is tangible, but it is also widely held to be negligible. However, it is se

rious enough for Accenture to have defined how businesses should respond to the growing threat from deepfakes.

Hackers, cybercriminals and fraudsters seem to be limitless in their ability to concoct ways to fool us and use our human behaviours against us. They are constantly testing and developing their techniques. It is likely that the threat to the recruitment process or to the HR function from deepfakes is going to evolve and it is one the industry needs to keep an eye on.

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