A man wearing a digital mask.

Binance chief says a “sophisticated hacking team” turned him into a deepfake hologram

Deepfakes are back, and causing major problems for people involved in financial circles. Scammers have been targeting people in the cryptocurrency community for some time now. There’s huge money to be made via the act of ripping folks off. Some of it is phishing, other attacks focus on breaking into currency exchanges. A few of these have dabbled in (very poorly done) Elon Musk deepfakes. The clips are bad, the voice an overt mashup of clipped and broken dialogue. All in all: not very convincing.

Well, scammers are back for another go.

Behold the Deepfake hologram

In this case, it’s a deepfake hologram impersonating Patrick Hillmann, Chief Communications Officer (CCO) at Binance. Hillman states that a “sophisticated hacking team” raided the old footage archives. News interviews, TV appearances, anything that they could get their hands on. The aim of the game? To use this footage and create a convincing deepfake.

The Hillmann deepfake was then used in a variety of scenarios to trick people, he said. The scam involved “potential opportunities to list their assets on Binance.com”. At least one incident involves someone ending up in a Zoom call with a “hologram”. We assume this is some sort of old hologram style marketing material repurposed for the bogus Zoom call. Or perhaps the person calling it a hologram is simply unfamiliar with this technology and just calling it a hologram because of that.

Fooling the community

While no footage of these fakes currently exists, Hillmann claims that these calls fooled “several highly intelligent crypto community members”. These individuals no doubt have some sort of familiarity with the people being used in the scam, so they must have been somewhat decently put together. Still: one person’s incredibly convincing deepfake is another person’s Playstation 2 full motion video emulator. Without seeing one of these in action, we may never know for sure.

There is also no word as to which projects were targeted by the scammers, or investment numbers/finance requests. Did anybody make off with some cash? We don’t know.

Avoiding cryptocurrency Deepfake scammers

Here are some tips from Binance in relation to avoiding scams like this one:

  • Be vigilant and always take proactive steps to ensure you don’t fall prey to scams and impersonations.

  • Use the Binance Verify tool to check whether the account officially represents Binance. Binance Verify isn’t foolproof though, and a scammer could spoof their “from” email address or hide behind the real name of a Binance employee. In both cases, Binance Verify would produce mixed results. 

  • Report any suspicious activities or accounts to Binance Support.

On a related note, you can always ask someone you suspect of being a deepfake to turn their head to one side. Your reward will be a horrifying rendering of broken facial structure from the upside-down, or the pangs of social embarrassment felt from accusing someone of being entirely digital. Given the fakery running wild out there at the moment, one would hope the person you’re talking to would understand the need for caution. The choice, as they say, is yours.


Christopher Boyd

Former Director of Research at FaceTime Security Labs. He has a very particular set of skills. Skills that make him a nightmare for threats like you.