Catching cybercriminals with AI this festive season


It has been said that in life, certainties include death and taxes. Another certainty is scammers being opportunistic, and the end-of-year holiday shopping period provides scammers with a great opportunity to target individuals around the world.

While we know that their playbooks are often very predictable, in 2023, the prominence of generative AI, such as ChatGPT gives scammers an additional edge.

According to an InMobi survey, retail spending in Southeast Asia will increase this holiday season with 60% of shoppers increasing their online shopping budgets.

More online shopping also potentially means more opportunities for scammers to find targets.

Notably, organisations like the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore are already warning members of the public to stay vigilant against festive-themed malware scams.

“Often, scams that appear during these holidays may be riddled with inaccuracy in spelling and grammar, but the availability of generative AI closes the gap between the novice scammer with poor spelling and grammar and gives them a competitive edge they’ve never had before. Scammers will use these tools this year as part of their scams and will find more success than in years past,” Satnam Narang, Senior Staff Research Engineer.

One byproduct of the gold rush in generative AI is the push across a variety of mediums, including video, to help drive improvements to things like deep fakes.

Earlier this year, Tenable senior staff research engineer, Satnam Narang, discovered how MrBeast, the biggest YouTube star in the world with over 188 million subscribers, was impersonated on TikTok to promote a fake iPhone 15 giveaway.

The deepfake was a big improvement over what we’ve seen in the past. In this Black Friday, it wouldn’t surprise to see scammers continue this trend and leverage the likeness of MrBeast and other social media influencers to promote giveaways and scams.

An old tactic that remains prevalent each year is the promotion of free gift cards for USD500-1000 to various brands, from Apple and Sephora to Cash App and Spotify, on various social media platforms including Instagram and TikTok.

These gift cards aren’t free, as they require users to reveal personal information and purchase premium offers, such as free trials, which will cost them money in the long run if they don’t follow the fine print and cancel.

“Social media is the perfect place to catch distracted users off guard. Today, cybercriminals can begin their scams on one social network and drive users to another one. Fake profiles are rampant and scammers can create hundreds of accounts to legitimize their scams. These existing tactics combined with the current boom of generative AI and use of deep fakes creates a dangerous situation for users” added Satnam Narang.

For consumers this holiday season, it is important to recognize the following:

  • Be aware of cyber criminals’ tactics.  Personalities like celebrities giving away things, links that take you off platform, social profiles with no engagement, post or following may represent a red flag. If you have any doubt, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
  • Be extra cautious and sceptical about offers and giveaways on social media. With the availability of generative AI like ChatGPT and other large language models means scams that you might normally recognize due to poor spelling and grammar won’t be so easy to spot, and improvements in deepfake technology means fake video content is likely to appear on your social media feeds.
  • Free doesn’t mean free. If you see ads or promotions for free things like popular technology, clothing or gift cards, understand that there is no such thing as free. There is always a price to be paid, which could include your personal information or your credit card information being charged. Therefore, be wary of such offers.
  • Always use trusted websites and services. If you’re looking for products and deals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, go to the source and visit the trusted, reputable sources before making a purchase.

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