Hackers reportedly deepfaked a Binance exec to carry out listing scams

The scammers seemingly used Patrick Hillmann's media appearances to ape the chief comms officer's image.

Benoit Tessier / reuters

Binance's chief communications officer says hackers used a deepfake of his image in Zoom calls to scam cryptocurrency executives. Patrick Hillmann claims the hackers successfully duped crypto project representatives into thinking he would help their tokens get listed on Binance's exchange.

In a blog post spotted by Bitcoin News, Hillmann wrote that the scammers built the deepfake based on his interviews and TV appearances. Hillmann learned about the deception after receiving messages thanking him for discussing listing opportunities. However, he said he didn't meet with any of those people and that he's not involved in Binance's listing process.

"This deepfake was refined enough to fool several highly intelligent crypto community members," Hillmann wrote. It's not clear how many crypto projects were affected by the scam or how much the folks behind them may have paid for the promise of a Binance listing. Binance doesn't have a set figure for listing fees. It asks projects to propose a number they're comfortable with and donates fees to charity.

Hillmann notes that Binance has stringent cybersecurity rules. Still, that won't stop hackers from trying to impersonate its workers. "There’s been a recent spike in hackers pretending to be Binance employees and executives on platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Telegram, etc," Hillmann wrote. Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao recently warned that there are around 7,000 purported profiles of the company's employees on LinkedIn, but only around 50 are real.

It's not the first time criminals have impersonated executives with the help of technology. In 2019, a scammer pretended to be the CEO of an unnamed company by using artificial intelligence to mimic that person's voice. They asked the head of a subsidiary to transfer $243,000 to a supplier. Of course, that money never arrived at its intended destination.

Last year, someone used a deepfake of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's chief of staff to dupe politicians in the Netherlands into having a video call with them. Facebook took down a deepfake of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in March, shortly after Russia invaded his country.

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