Google Heads to Court to Thwart Online Scammers

Enough is enough, Google’s general counsel declares.

While artificial intelligence has generated a significant buzz in the past few years, one area where the spotlight shines brightest doesn’t show AI in its best light.

That would be AI-powered cyber fraud.

According to a recent AI fraud survey from data security giant McAfee, U.S. technology consumers receive an average of 11.6 fake messages or scams each day. What’s more, two-thirds (65%) of Americans have clicked or fallen for a scam, 45% of those people have lost money as a result, and 15% have lost more than $1,000.

That trend is accelerating as AI has turned into a scammer’s “favorite tool”, McAfee states, which cyber criminals use to “increase the scale, sophistication, and speed of phishing and text message scams.”

That’s leading to a flood of fake emails, text messages, and phishing sites. According to McAfee, a new phishing site is created every 11 seconds these days.

“It’s not just the speed and volume, but the sophistication,” says Roma Majumder, senior vice president of product at McAfee. “Thanks to AI it can be incredibly difficult to know if that delivery text message or bank alert notification is real or not. So much so that 55% of Americans believe they have a better shot at solving the Rubik’s cube than identifying a scam message.”

Google Taking Legal Action Against AI Scammers

While U.S. states like Michigan and California are establishing guardrails against the legal use of AI, it’s private tech enterprises that use AI technology the most that are stepping up to stop AI scammers in their tracks.

Take Google, which just filed a lawsuit against two groups of scammers.

— The first sought to exploit public enthusiasm for generative AI to spread malware, the company stated in a recent release.

— The second weaponized the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to harm their business competitors by submitting thousands of blatantly fraudulent copyright notices.

“As public excitement in new generative AI tools has increased, scammers are increasingly taking advantage of unsuspecting users,” says Google general counsel Halimah DeLaine Prado. “Our first lawsuit targets bad actors who misled numerous people around the world looking to use Google’s AI tools into unknowingly downloading malware.”

In that scam, fraudsters created social media pages and ran ads that encouraged people to “download” Bard, Google’s freely available generative AI tool that actually “doesn’t need to be downloaded,” Prado says. “The ads instead led people to download malware that compromised their social media accounts,” she says. “Since April, we have filed roughly 300 takedowns related to this group of bad actors.”

In its legal filing, Google says it’s seeking an order to cease and desist – or else.

“We want to stop the scammers from setting up domains like these and allow us to have them disabled with U.S. domain registrars,” Prado notes. “If this is successful, it will serve as a deterrent and provide a clear mechanism for preventing similar scams in the future.”

The second lawsuit targets “bad actors abusing the DMCA” by using bogus copyright takedowns to harm competitors.

“The DMCA was created to protect internet users and copyright holders while encouraging innovation,” Prado states. “It enables creators to protect their work on the Internet, ensures users and businesses can create and share information online, and gives companies the certainty they need to offer services to the public. In compliance with the DMCA, Google has a takedown process to handle legitimate complaints of copyright infringement.”

The Google lawsuit focuses on digital scammers who set up dozens of Google accounts and used them to submit thousands of bogus copyright claims against their competitors.

“These fraudulent claims resulted in the removal of over 100,000 businesses’ websites, costing them millions of dollars and thousands of hours in lost employee time,” Prado says. “We hope our lawsuit will not only put an end to this activity but also deter others and raise awareness of the harm that fraudulent takedowns can have on small businesses across the country.”

Google will hardly be the only major technology outfit that targets AI scammers. The good news for its user base is that it’s one of the first.

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