It’s Time to Waste the Scammers’ Time
Scammers, at worst, steal sensitive data and/or possessions from individuals and companies. At best, they exist to waste our time. Many of their attempts to scam us, especially via phone calls, are obvious, but they still require us to pick up the phone and listen to their overt deception. It’s time to waste the scammers’ time for a change. That’s
June 27, 2023
Scammers, at worst, steal sensitive data and/or possessions from individuals and companies. At best, they exist to waste our time. Many of their attempts to scam us, especially via phone calls, are obvious, but they still require us to pick up the phone and listen to their overt deception. It’s time to waste the scammers’ time for a change.
That’s what a group of cybersecurity researchers from Macquarie University in Sydney are aiming to do with their new chatbot. According to PCMag, the researchers’ chatbot is designed to impersonate a human, whose purpose is to play along on a phone call and waste a potential scammer’s time.
“Our model ties them up, wastes their time, and reduces the number of successful scams,” states Macquarie University professor Dali Kaafar. “We can disrupt their business model and make it much harder for them to make money.”
Kaafar’s motivation comes from experience. He once received a phone call from a scammer while having lunch with his kids, then proceeded to spend the next 40 minutes toying with the scammer to amusement of everyone (but the scammer, presumably). Of course, there’s satisfaction to doing this yourself, but 40 minutes of the scammer’s time wasted is also 40 minutes of your own time wasted.
That’s where robots come into play: Kaafar’s robot is called “Apate,” named after the Greek goddess of deceit. Apate is built using an AI language model like ChatGPT. That’s what powers it to hold a conversation. To speak, it uses a voice cloning tool to mimic a human voice. Kaafar and his team have used real scam calls to train Apate into responding in a more realistic way. That way, the scammer is more likely to believe Apate is real, and will stay on the phone longer.
Apate works, too, but not as well as Kaafar would like. At this time, Apate can hold a conversation for about five minutes. It’s fun to waste any amount of scammers’ time, but Kaafar is aiming for that original 40 minute mark from that lunch with his kids.
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