The new doublespeak
Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

The new doublespeak

Protocol Enterprise

Hello, and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: why cybersecurity researchers are increasingly concerned about the growing number of phishing attempts using audio deepfakes, Qualcomm is thinking about getting back into the server chip market, and this week’s enterprise moves.

Social engineering goes hi-fi

Deepfake videos get a lot of the attention, but for many businesses, attacks involving fabricated audio are emerging as the bigger threat.

While the voice deepfakes are far from perfect at this stage, lots of workers are still falling for them, researchers told me, and agreeing to the urgent request from their “boss” to transfer funds.

  • Among cybersecurity professionals who focus on responding to cyberattacks, two-thirds of those recently surveyed by VMware reported that deepfakes — including both audio and video fabrications — were a component in attacks they’d investigated over the past year.
  • That was up 13% from the previous year's study, and 42% of the attacks used audio deepfakes.
  • Rick McElroy, principal cybersecurity strategist at VMware, said he's spoken with two corporate security chiefs whose companies have fallen prey to deepfake audio attacks in recent months. In both cases, the attacks prompted the transfer of six-figure sums, McElroy told me.
  • "It's your boss's voice. It sounds like the person you talk to every day," said Nick Giacopuzzi, a senior consultant at StoneTurn who has investigated multiple incidents in which an attacker deployed deepfake audio created with the help of AI. "Sometimes it can be very successful."

With a short audio sample of a person speaking and a publicly available tool on GitHub, a human voice can be cloned today without the need for AI expertise.

  • Researcher Yisroel Mirsky provided me with an audio deepfake that he created with the tool using just three seconds of a person's voice.
  • And researchers say there's an even larger threat coming: attackers calling you up and speaking through a cloned voice in real time.
  • "Real-time deepfakes are the biggest threat on the horizon" in this arena, said Mirsky, head of the Offensive AI Research Lab at Ben-Gurion University.

In response, Mirsky said his lab at Ben-Gurion University is currently focusing on the deepfake audio threat, with a goal of developing a way to detect real-time cloned voice attacks.

  • Training and changes to business processes will also be crucial for defending against this type of threat, according to McElroy.
  • In the cases of wire transfers, for instance, companies may want to add another step in the process, such as a challenge phrase, he said.
  • Ultimately, the spread of audio deepfakes is just further evidence that in today’s world, "we need to question everything,” Giacopuzzi told me.

Read the full story here.

— Kyle Alspach (email | twitter)

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Once more, with feeling

After an aborted effort to enter the server chip market about five years ago, Qualcomm has decided to make another attempt, according to Bloomberg News.

Qualcomm has elected to build a new server chip from within its Nuvia unit, and is courting AWS as a potential client amid its search for buyers, according to the report. The details are light, however, and it isn’t clear whether Qualcomm plans to use an Arm-based core design for the chip, or even what type of data-center chip the company is aiming to produce.

Qualcomm and AWS declined to comment.

Nuvia was founded by several former Apple and Google chip engineers in 2019, and was developing a line of Arm-based server chips when Qualcomm acquired it in 2021 for over $1 billion. AWS uses Arm designs for its in-house Graviton chips, and startups such as Ampere have built server chips based on Arm tech that aim to break into the server-processor market, which has been dominated by Intel and AMD for years.

In a recent interview with Protocol, Arm CEO Rene Haas estimated that its technology makes up 5% to 10% of the data center market at this point. Chips based on the company's designs have a reputation for using energy more judiciously than rival x86 processors, and those chips — including ones made by Qualcomm — are already used extensively inside smartphones and tablets.

Arm declined to comment about Qualcomm’s possible server chips.

Qualcomm's last attempt to make a server chip launched in 2017, and several cloud computing providers such as Microsoft and Cloudflare expressed interest in adopting the design, which was called the Centriq 2400. Ultimately, the company shut down the project less than a year after its announcement. Former Intel veteran Anand Chandrasekher, who led the effort, departed Qualcomm.

— Max A. Cherney (email | twitter)

Enterprise moves

Over the past week, New Relic and 1Password bolstered their C-suite while Starburst, Okta, VMware, Google Cloud and others added new execs.

David Barter is now CFO of New Relic. Barter was formerly CFO for C3.ai, and was a finance leader for Guidewire Software and Microsoft.

Steve Won is the new chief product officer at 1Password. Won was formerly head of authentication products for Duo Security, which was acquired by Cisco.

Alison Huselid joined Starburst as SVP of product management. Huselid was formerly head of product at Atlassian.

Bill Hustad is the new SVP of global partners and alliances at Okta. Hustad was formerly VP of alliances and channel ecosystems at Splunk.

Dominick Delfino joined Google Cloud as global VP of cybersecurity sales. Delfino was formerly chief revenue officer at Nutanix and Pure Storage.

Prashanth Shenoy joined VMware as VP of cloud platform, infrastructure and solutions marketing. Shenoy was formerly VP of cloud and networking marketing at Cisco.

Michelle Wilson was appointed to the board of directors at Cockroach Labs. Wilson was formerly a board member at Okta and Zendesk, among others, and general counsel for Amazon.

Amy Kilpatrick joined Contentful as chief marketing officer. Kilpatrick was formerly a marketing VP at Mailchimp.

Around the enterprise

Google Cloud revealed that its Armor network security service defeated a massive DDoS attack against a customer, which the company said was by far the largest attack of its kind, on June 1.

Despite the decentralized pitch associated with cryptocurrencies, new research shows that over half the nodes associated with Ethereum are actually running on AWS.

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