Houston expert discusses AI use in banking and phishing scams

AI carries security risks in banking, including being used by scammers to target financial information. Photo via Getty Images

With artificial intelligence technologies easily accessible and growing in popularity, consumers and business owners alike should be aware of both the benefits and risks when it comes to the utilization of generative AI tools in banking and finance. While data-driven AI creates the opportunity to further drive innovation in banking, the data-reliant nature of the industry makes it a natural target for scammers looking to intercept personal and business finances and sensitive customer information.

As banks and other financial service providers are using AI as a tool to scan for anomalies or errors that are known fraud techniques, criminals are using AI to improve their chances of perpetrating fraud. For this reason, consumers and businesses should guard their data with the same diligence used to guard cash and other valuable physical property.

Privacy and accuracy

For entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes, it is important to keep in mind the practical applications of AI beyond the trending headlines, whether implementing the technology into everyday internal business practices, or into client-facing solutions.

When feeding information into AI, it is best to maintain a defensive position and be proactive about not disclosing sensitive or private information. Also, rely on sound judgment when deciding when and how to use AI technologies. From a business standpoint, privacy should be embedded into a financial system’s design and leaders should be transparent about the technologies used within a given system.

Technologies like ChatGPT are large language models operating on massive datasets, including documents and web pages across the internet. This poses a risk because some sources of this data lack accuracy. When seeking financial advice via AI technologies, it is best to conduct research by curating and limiting the dataset then talking through your unique financial position in person with your trusted banker and IT staff or consultants.

Phishing and business email compromise via AI

Historically, phishing and business email compromise, or BEC, attempts have been more easily recognizable and often flushed out due to grammatical errors and unnecessary punctuation. With technologies like ChatGPT, scammers are now better equipped to draft well written content that can fool a person into thinking a communication is legitimate. Phishing can lead to people clicking links or attachments that harbor malware or other viruses that can lead to account takeover. With BEC, a person might be fooled into thinking an email is from a legitimate person. Scams like these could potentially lead to the disclosing of sensitive information or accepting transaction instructions or changes, ultimately resulting in money being sent to a fraudster.

AI voice generators

AI voice generators can be used to mimic voices of anyone including bankers, C-suite leaders and customers. If a person is fooled into believing they have received a voicemail or are talking to a person they know, they may accept instructions from a fraudster like providing transaction approvals and sensitive or private information, resulting in fraud.

AI can also create fake identities, including AI-developed photos of individuals, and other false information. These fake identities could be used to create accounts for fraudulent purposes.

AI is here to stay

AI is forecasted to have a lasting impact on the banking industry. Whether on the business or consumer side of the spectrum, it will be important to embrace the innovation and enhancements generative AI will continue to produce, while maintaining a cautionary stance around protecting client and business information and finances. Fraud prevention practices will need to continue evolving alongside the fast-paced growth of generative AI in banking.


Ken Smiley is treasury management division manager of Amegy Bank and a fraud protection expert.

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A research team housed out of the newly launched Rice Biotech Launch Pad received funding to scale tech that could slash cancer deaths in half. Photo via Rice University

A research funding agency has deployed capital into a team at Rice University that's working to develop a technology that could cut cancer-related deaths in half.

Rice researchers received $45 million from the National Institutes of Health's Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, to scale up development of a sense-and-respond implant technology. Rice bioengineer Omid Veiseh leads the team developing the technology as principal investigator.

“Instead of tethering patients to hospital beds, IV bags and external monitors, we’ll use a minimally invasive procedure to implant a small device that continuously monitors their cancer and adjusts their immunotherapy dose in real time,” he says in a news release. “This kind of ‘closed-loop therapy’ has been used for managing diabetes, where you have a glucose monitor that continuously talks to an insulin pump. But for cancer immunotherapy, it’s revolutionary.”

Joining Veiseh on the 19-person research project named THOR, which stands for “targeted hybrid oncotherapeutic regulation,” is Amir Jazaeri, co-PI and professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The device they are developing is called HAMMR, or hybrid advanced molecular manufacturing regulator.

“Cancer cells are continually evolving and adapting to therapy. However, currently available diagnostic tools, including radiologic tests, blood assays and biopsies, provide very infrequent and limited snapshots of this dynamic process," Jazaeri adds. "As a result, today’s therapies treat cancer as if it were a static disease. We believe THOR could transform the status quo by providing real-time data from the tumor environment that can in turn guide more effective and tumor-informed novel therapies.”

With a national team of engineers, physicians, and experts across synthetic biology, materials science, immunology, oncology, and more, the team will receive its funding through the Rice Biotech Launch Pad, a newly launched initiative led by Veiseh that exists to help life-saving medical innovation scale quickly.

"Rice is proud to be the recipient of the second major funding award from the ARPA-H, a new funding agency established last year to support research that catalyzes health breakthroughs," Rice President Reginald DesRoches says. "The research Rice bioengineer Omid Veiseh is doing in leading this team is truly groundbreaking and could potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives each year. This is the type of research that makes a significant impact on the world.”

The initial focus of the technology will be on ovarian cancer, and this funding agreement includes a first-phase clinical trial of HAMMR for the treatment of recurrent ovarian cancer that's expected to take place in the fourth year of THOR’s multi-year project.

“The technology is broadly applicable for peritoneal cancers that affect the pancreas, liver, lungs and other organs,” Veiseh says. “The first clinical trial will focus on refractory recurrent ovarian cancer, and the benefit of that is that we have an ongoing trial for ovarian cancer with our encapsulated cytokine ‘drug factory’ technology. We'll be able to build on that experience. We have already demonstrated a unique model to go from concept to clinical trial within five years, and HAMMR is the next iteration of that approach.”

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